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The Process of Voter Registration in Kenya

The process of voter registration in Kenya involves taking the details of the citizens eligible to vote and recording the details in the register of voters for elections. Voter registration is an important part of democracy and the democratic process. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has the mandate of voter registration as per the Constitution.

Eligible citizens register in an electoral area where they are eligible to vote during the elections. These electoral areas are the Ward, Constituency and County. The registered voters can elect the President (and his deputy), the Members of Parliament (National Assembly and the Senate, including Women Representatives), the County Governors (and their deputies) and the Ward Representatives (also known as Members of the County Assembly).

The process of voter registration in Kenya can either be periodic or continuous. Periodic registration of voters occurs when a register of voters is prepared every time there is an election and the register is used only for that election. Continuous registration of voters involves updating an existing register of voters. Voter registration in Kenya is a continuous process.

During continuous voter registration in Kenya, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) updates the Principal register of voters by:

  • adding the names of eligible voters regularly;
  • carry out transfers of registered voters;
  • deleting the names of dead voters;
  • deleting the names of voters declared incompetent legally;
  • deleting voters registered more than once; and
  • rectifying the details of voters.

The Elections (Registration of Voters) Regulations requires the Commission to designate and gazette registration centres where registration will occur. The regulations empower the Commission to use public facilities as registration centres free of charge.

The Commission appoints a registration officer (or a registration clerk) in each registration area who is responsible for the compilation of the register of voters.

The process of voter registration in Kenya

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should register anyone whose name is not in the register of voters as a voter upon application. A person who has registered for an identification card and has an acknowledgement of registration certificate as proof of such registration should also be eligible for registration as a voter.

The voting requirements in Kenya

Article 83 of the Kenyan Constitution stipulates the qualifications for a voter in Kenya, saying a person must:

  • be a citizen of Kenya;
  • be an adult, evidenced by either a national identity card or a Kenyan passport. The voting age in Kenya is 18 years and above.
  • be of sound mind (that is, able to think, understand and reason for oneself. Adults are generally considered to be of sound mind unless circumstances change).
  • not been convicted of an election offence during the preceding five years;

Enrolment of a new voter

The voter registration in Kenya is done at any of the gazetted registration centres by the use of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kit. A registration officer captures both the alphanumeric data and the biometric data of the potential voter.

An eligible voter must present themselves to the registration officer with their original identification documents at the designated registration centre during working hours.

The registration officer should use the correct process to capture this data. The registration clerk should follow the following process of voter registration in Kenya:

  • the first step should be to receive and welcome the applicant;
  • then request the applicant’s Identification (ID) or a valid Kenyan passport;
  • confirm the ownership and validity of the identification documents;
  • probe whether the applicant has applied for fresh registration elsewhere;
  • capture the applicant’s identification details. The applicant should also confirm that the registration officer has captured their identity details correctly;
  • issue the applicant with an application form (Form A). Where the applicant is illiterate or for any other justifiable reasons, the registration officer should assist them to fill the form;
  • capture the applicant’s biometric features (fingerprints and face) and alphanumeric details into the BVR system. During this stage, the applicant should:
    • place the four fingers of their left hand on the fingerprint reader. If the fingerprint indicator turns green, the capture of the left-hand fingerprints is complete;
    • place the four fingers of their right hand on the fingerprint reader. If the fingerprint indicator turns green, the capture of the right-hand fingerprints is complete.;
    • place their two thumbs on the fingerprint reader. If the fingerprint indicator turns green, the capture of the two thumbprints is complete.;
    • when the fingerprint capture process is complete, the fingerprints are displayed on the screen;
  • take a passport-sized photo of the applicant and confirm it is clear.
  • invite the applicant to confirm the data captured and correct any identified errors;
  • fill the acknowledgement slip and capture the unique reference number generated by the system as voter’s elector’s number;
  • retrieve the duly filled registration Form (Form A) from the applicant;
  • have the applicant fill and sign the Registration Center Reference book;
  • issue a laminated acknowledgement of voters’ registration slip bearing the voter’s details to the applicant. However, this slip will not be a requirement for voting. Only the identity card or valid Kenyan passport is required to vote;
  • inform the applicant where they will vote;
  • inform the applicant that Inspection of the voter’s register will follow sometime after the close of registration;
  • finally the applicant leaves the registration centre.

Updating an existing enrolment

The process of voter registration in Kenya also allows for a voter to update their details in the voter’s register. The applicant fills Form C to update their existing enrolment in the register of voters.

Only a voter’s alphanumeric data can be updated in an existing enrolment. The biometric data and portrait photo cannot be updated.

After the update, the personal authentication process is the same as fingerprint capture.

The registration clerk cannot update an applicant’s details unless the applicant is physically present to authenticate using their right hand.

Voter Registration of Citizens residing outside Kenya

Article 82(1) (e) of the Kenyan Constitution provides for the progressive registration of citizens residing outside Kenya, and the progressive realisation of their right to vote. The Elections (Registration of voters) Regulations provide the procedures for the registration of the citizens residing outside Kenya.

The Supreme Court ordered the Commission to effect progressive voter registration for Kenyan citizens living in the Diaspora. The Commission should also file annual reports on such registration for review by the National Assembly and the Senate, The Court further ordered the Commission to put in place the necessary infrastructure for such registration.

The Commission developed the Policy on Voter Registration and Voting for Citizens Residing Outside Kenya (Diaspora). The policy provides for the establishment of registration centres based on official data of Kenyan Citizens in countries outside Kenya. For cost-effectiveness, the policy proposes to establish a registration centre:

  • in each country where Kenya has a diplomatic presence; and
  • a population of at least 3,000 eligible Kenyan citizens registered with the Mission or with the Commission.

The Commission should map Kenyan citizens residing outside Kenya to establish the number, their distribution in foreign nations, age, gender and embassy or consulate. This information should aid in planning and logistics for voter registration.

The process for voter registration for citizens living outside Kenya is as follows:

  • the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission gazettes identified registration centres in Kenyan Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates. • an eligible Kenyan citizen residing outside Kenya applies for registration at designated registration centres by filling the prescribed form J. • to qualify to register as a voter, the applicant must provide a valid Kenyan Passport. • The procedure for voter registration is similar to the process of registration in Kenya (as discussed above, with Form J replacing Form A).

All voter registration returns are transmitted to the Commission within the period that the Commission puts in place. For effective and efficient registration, the Commission may deploy an appropriate method or technology in the registration of voters subject to Kenyan law.

Denial of the right to register as a voter

A person can be denied the right to register as a voter in Kenya when:

  • under 18 years of age;
  • not in possession of the original ID card or a valid Kenyan passport;
  • the person is un-discharged bankrupt;
  • found guilty by an election court or reported to be guilty of any election offence during the preceding five years;
  • a competent court declares the person to be of unsound mind.

Frequently asked questions about voter registration in Kenya

Is an eligible voter allowed to register more than once?

No! A person is only allowed to register once as a voter in a constituency or registration centre of their choice. It is an offence to register more than once.

What is the penalty for registering more than once?

Any person who has registered more than once as a voter is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand Kenya shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both. Such persons should be barred from participating in the immediate election and the text that follows.

Can a person transfer as a voter to another registration centre or constituency?

Yes! A person may transfer as a voter to another registration centre of their choice within the registration period. The voter fills Form D to effect the transfer.

For more information about the process of voter registration in Kenya, see the Voter Registration Source Book (especially the Appendix for how the different forms mentioned look like). Here is also an infographic by IEBC on the voter registration process.

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Gĩthĩnji is the founder of afrocave.com. He is passionate about politics and governance, public finance management and cycling.@GithinjiKE