Voter Registration for the 2013 General Elections in Kenya

On March 4, 2013, Kenya held a landmark general election. It was the first national election since the promulgation of the internationally lauded constitution, which created a devolved system of government. For the first time, Kenyans voted simultaneously for six elective offices, ranging from president to local ward representative. This election was also the first to be administered by the newly created Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), a body which enjoyed over 90 per cent public confidence in the lead-up to the national polls.1

In an attempt to rid Kenyan elections of the stigma they incurred after the 2007 debacle, the IEBC announced its decision to integrate digital technology into voter registration, election day voter identification and results transmission. In this way, the IEBC hoped to strengthen public confidence – both domestically and internationally – in the transparency and verifiability of the electoral process.

In particular, the biometric voter registration (BVR) technology was meant to provide a reliable and verifiable list of registered voters in Kenya. This was to be an overhaul of the previous optical scanning voter registration system, which had produced a bloated and much-condemned voter register in previous elections. Despite a series of delays in the procurement of the BVR technology, the IEBC did ultimately manage to conduct digital voter registration from November to December 2012. However, the utility of the digital list of voters was relatively limited without the electronic voter identification (EVID) kits, which were to identify registered voters on election day and then mark those voters as having voted. This technology was intended to prevent multiple voting and voting by non-registered Kenyans. Unfortunately, the EVID kits failed across the country, forcing the IEBC to
resort to using the hard copy of the register.

In this report, the Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG) presents its findings related to the voter register and the failure of the EVID technology. Specifically, this report details the inconsistencies contained within the multiple voter registers, the failure of the IEBC to adequately explain the differing totals of the various registers and the implications of the lack of a single, verifiable register.

In line with its commitment to promote permanent public vigilance over public life and public institutions, AfriCOG provides a detailed account of changes made to the register after the close of registration, the lack of consistency in the published totals and the unexplained instances of turnout of over 100 per cent. Overall, AfriCOG finds that one year after the election, Kenyans still do not know how many registered voters there are in the country. This problem is compounded by the 2013 Supreme Court petition judgment, which effectively legitimizes the use of multiple registers, thereby opening the door to error and malpractice. In conclusion, AfriCOG recommends a series of reforms to ensure the transparent creation of a credible voter register for future elections.

Click here to download the full report