IEBC's release of voter turnout data is vital

Wednesday November 1 2017

By JOHN WALUBENGO
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The recent flip-flopping by IEBC on the number of people who voted in the repeat elections left a lot to be desired.  How could such a simple question, with a simple answer, be left to speculation?

Kenya seems to be the only country in the world where if someone asked you a simple question like 'When did President Obama visit the country?', you would get different answers depending on whom you asked. That is how deep our divisions have become.

Our political divisions have scaled up to levels where there shouldn’t be any dispute about these numbers.  This brings a famous quote to the fore the famous quote – we are entitled to our own opinions but not to our own facts.

The current dispute is about how many Kenyans actually voted in the repeat elections. A simple question that has seen the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) flip-flop around it based on which commissioner is answering the question.

Politicians and citizens on both side of the divide quickly picked up the cue and are brandishing their figures left right and centre.

Depending on whom you ask, you get all manner of statistics, from absolute figures of 3million, 6million and 8million to percentage figures of 20 per cent, 30 per cent, 48 per cent to 54 per cent, as representing voter turn out.

TRANSMIT THE RESULTS

We are at a point where it does not matter what IEBC eventually announces as the final voter turnout, very few will believe them because they themselves have helped cannibalise their remaining balance of public trust.

The worst moment occurred when Prof. Guliye, one of the commissioners tried to explain why his Chairman’s figures were flip-flopping. He was quoted saying the EVID (Electronic Voter Identification) Kit was not a reliable source of data as far as voter turnout was concerned.

Quite shocking because last time I checked, the EVID Kit did three things and did them fairly well in the last elections.

First, to identify voters through their fingerprints, second, to transmit the results and third, to actually keep a continuous running tally of people who had voted. That is how the EVID software was designed .

Therefore, it was able to cross-check voter turnout at a polling station and subsequently block a transmission of results that may otherwise have exceeded the number of people who voted. This functionality is at the heart of digitising our electoral process.

Indeed, without this functionality to identify and count voters electronically, we should, as Kenyans, have demanded an immediate an refund of our more than Sh4billion from our French partners for supplying us with toys in the name of EVID kits.

COMPLEMENTARY SYSTEM

Whether you support Jubilee or Nasa, you must stand up and demand that when we dispense our taxes to get equipment or systems to address our problems, those systems must not only work, but be seen to work.

Months ago, I wrote on this blog that declaring the IEBC technology committee unconstitutional and disbanding it was a mistake. I never expected the mistake to manifest itself as fast as it did in the repeat election.

Such a multi-stakeholder committee would have had an opportunity to ensure the EVID kit worked as planned, and in cases where it may have failed, the same broad-based committee would have been more believable in explaining the shortcomings.

One explanation offered by the commissioners for the possible discrepancy between the EVID's number of voters and the final tally is that we have a complementary system of identification that allows voters not found on the EVID register to vote.

This was another shocker that was subsequently confirmed by Chairman Chebukati

But the question is, why would someone not on the EVID register be allowed to vote?  The last time I checked, anyone with mal fingerprints that failed to be picked by the EVID, would be allowed to vote by producing a National ID that was to be cleared through the same EVID. But maybe the regulations may have changed since the last election. 

EVERY TWO HOURS

Either way, it will be interesting to get statistics on just how many voters managed to vote outside the EVID register and from which constituencies they came.

We must remember that sections of politicians are already toying around with the idea of doing away with project Kenya, and IEBC flip-flopping around the voting numbers in a repeat election that has an obvious winner is precisely what politicians need to justify their dangerous games.

This is why today's release of data is vital. It is an improvement in transparency by the IEBC over the annulled August 8 election. However, to dispel suspicions, Mr Chebukati should release data on voter turnout throughout election day, showing how many voters came in every two hours.

Finally, if OT- Morpho was able to release data from the repeat election, was the same not possible for the annulled election? Let's see that data too.

Mr Walubengo is a lecturer at Multimedia University of Kenya, Faculty of Computing and IT. Email: [email protected], Twitter: @Jwalu