, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 2 – The Interim Independent Electoral Commission launched the inmates registration, with an appeal to Parliament to pass the Elections Bill 2010, which will see far-reaching reforms in the management of electoral process in the country.
Launching the exercise at the Kamiti Maximum Prison, Chairman Isaack Hassan said among the proposals suggested included allowing inmates to vote in all electoral processes.
He said: "I want to make it clear that we had proposed that prisoners be allowed to vote not only in the referendum but also in the general election."
The weeklong exercise is expected to register an estimated 40,000 inmates in 70 prison facilities which have been gazetted as polling centres, ahead of the August 4 referendum.
The registration of prisoners follows a ruling by the Interim Independent Constitutional Dispute Resolution Court a week ago directing the IIEC, the Committee of Experts and the AG to have inmates registered as voters and participate in the August referendum.
Inmates Peter Ouko and Denge Dimu welcomed the ruling but appealed to the government to fast track the production of IDs to enable all them participate fully in the process.
"There are those of us who are worried that the exercise will end next week and many prisoners will miss out due to lack of Identity cards," said Mr Ouko, who is serving a life sentence.
"All prisoners who have IDs are very happy because this is part of the reforms we have seen since NARC came to power and that is why I will vote Yes," said Mr Dimu while flashing his new acquired Voters Card alongside a worn out old generation ID.
Mr Hassan asked the AG (who was the government representative in the case) to hasten the issuance of the IDs to the inmates to allow for quick registration as the commission is rushing to beat time as the referendum draws closer by the day.
“I know that there have been concerns expressed that some of the people who are in prisons don’t have ID cards. That’s a very genuine concern but that’s why the AG has been ordered to give IDs to these people. It is a minimum requirement which a voter must have,” he said.
Mr Hassan said that the IIEC would use video and DVD recordings and public baraza to conduct voter education on the voting process in the correctional facilities before the referendum.
He said only inmates who are of sound mind, aged 18 and have their identification cards qualify to register for the referendum.
Prisoners will only be allowed to vote at the forthcoming referendum.
The suit had been filed by inmates from Shimo La Tewa and Kituo Cha Sheria, a human rights lobby group, who argued that barring prisoners from the plebiscite was illegal and a violation of their rights.
Section 43 (c ) of the current Constitution disqualifies convicts from voting in Presidential, Parliamentary and Civic elections but the convicts told the court that the section of the law does not bar prisoners from participating in a referendum.