NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 30 – The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has warned that voters could be denied their constitutional right to vote should Parliament fail to pass the election laws amendments proposed by it.
According to IEBC CEO Ezra Chiloba, the law as currently constituted could deny many voters an opportunity to vote should they fail to physically present themselves in order to verify their registration status.
Many voters, Chiloba said would prefer to do so electronically as, “previous experience has shown,” such as via SMS.
“The law as currently crafted means that the voters must physically appear at polling stations to confirm their biometric data. The IEBC raised questions as to what happens to voters who for one reason or the other do not physically confirm their biometric data during the 30 days verification period between April 10 to May 10,” Chiloba told the Senate Standing Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights on Thursday.
The Commission also raised concerns over what it described as lack of clarity on how registered voters who are unable to have their finger prints identified would be handled on poll day, saying the law does not provide for a procedure on how to deal with such voters.
“If Biometric Voter Identification (BVI) is mandatory, it is important to allow for the procedure to handle voters who for whatever reasons may not be identified using biometrics on the voting day,” argued Chiloba.
The Commission noted with concern the manner in which the law was crafted saying it does not provide for the use of other biometric features such as facial recognition or national Identification Numbers through which IEBC staff can verify the identity of persons who present themselves at polling stations to cast their ballots.
According to Chiloba, the amendments proposed by the IEBC will streamline the voting process and further enhance efficiency and trust by averting a crisis likely to occur due to an unprecedented number of voters being turned away from polling stations for failure to have their details verified.
“Under the current practice, once the kit is unable to read the voter’s finger prints, the Presiding Officer moves to the next level of verification using the voter’s national Identification Number. Often this process leads the voter details showing on the screen and then confirmed by the Presiding Officer before proceeding to vote.”
Most of the amendments proposed by the IEBC were passed by National Assembly last week including the amendment providing for a complimentary mechanism for voter identification and transmission of results in places where technology fails.
The Senate is expected to consider the amendments on January 5, when they reconvene for yet another Special Sitting.
The Commission was making its submissions before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights which on Wednesday commenced public hearings on proposed amendments to the Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016.