Thousands of potential voters could be locked out of the August 8 General Election for failing to register to vote, many of them for lack of the documents required to be listed.
The stark revelation came on Wednesday as Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) officers lamented the low turnout since the Monday launch of the final phase of voter registration in the current election cycle.
The IEBC targets six million new voters by February 14, or about 200,000 daily. But figures filed by its county officers show an average of only 2,000 listings per day in each of the 47 counties, which is less than half the target.
“We hope that these numbers will go up as the exercise picks,” IEBC Chief Executive Officer Ezra Chiloba told reporters at the agency’s Anniversary Towers headquarters in Nairobi. “The commission is pleased with the turnout and interest from Kenyans”
An alleged number of those who had registered had been shared posted on social media, prompting Mr Chiloba to dismiss the figures as false. He said only the IEBC had authority to publish the official number of voters.
The number of voters is expected to be another political battlefront with aspirants rallying their support bases to list and vote.
The IEBC’s target would add on the 14,337,399 voters who had registered ahead of the 2013 General Election, in which 12,330,028, or 86 per cent, voted.
But on Wednesday, the IEBC admitted that the current drought in several counties posed a new challenge as the affected Kenyans prioritised search for food and water over lining up to register.
Leaders from hard-hit areas in the north had called on the IEBC to register these people wherever they were.
But the IEBC also said it had faced other challenges, this time with faulty biometric voter registration (BVR) kits.
Mr Chiloba however said: “The commission has reserved BVR kits in every constituency to serve as back-up to those already in the field.”
This time round, the IEBC was specifically targeting Kenyans who had not registered between 2012 and 2016 and those who have just attained voting age and obtained the national identity card.
But thousands in this group have no IDs yet. Politicians have petitioned the IEBC to go to schools and colleges and also register those with ID waiting cards. But on Wednesday, the IEBC categorically stated that that would be illegal.
“The waiting card is not an acceptable document for purposes of voter registration,” Mr Chiloba explained. “And this is following amendments that were done on the Elections Act.
“The logic is also very simple: there is no ID number on the waiting card and yet you are telling that person to register with the waiting card. So, there is some disconnect there and potential for abuse.”
The waiting card is a slip given to applicants of national ID cards as a certificate of application. But since not every application is successful, the slips only bear serial numbers and are not an identification document.
The National Registration Bureau is yet to announce how many new ID applicants are awaiting the document. But on average, it takes 60 days for first-time applicants and 10 working days for those seeking replacements to get IDs.
- Ezra Chiloba (center), the chief executive officer (CEO) and commission secretary of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, at the body’s office at Anniversary Towers in Nairobi on January 18, 2017. With him are its deputy CEOs Marjan Hussein Marjan (left) and Betty Sungura-Nyabuto.