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A Guide to the Voting Process in Kenya

The voting process in Kenya ensures that Kenyans participate in the democratic process of choosing the people who will govern them. During the general elections in Kenya held every five years, Kenyans elect six representatives who will represent them at the national and county level.

The six representatives are the:

  • President and the Deputy President on a joint ticket (also known as the Presidency);
  • Members of the National Assembly (who represent the Constituencies);
  • Members of the Senate (who represent the Counties);
  • Women County Representatives or simply Women Representatives elected at the county level (and who are also members of the National Assembly);
  • The County Governor and the Deputy County Governor on a joint ticket;
  • Members of the County Assembly who are also known as Ward Representatives (representing the Wards at the County Level).

The Presidency and the Members of Parliament operate at the national level while the Governor, Deputy Governor and Ward Representatives operate at the County Level. All these representatives are elected on the same day.

The term ‘Member of Parliament’ refers to any member in the National Assembly or the Senate.

Requirements for one to vote in Kenya

What are 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;

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) 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 process in Kenya

The voting procedure in Kenya begins with voter identification and ends with the voter leaving the polling station. In between, several other processes take place to ensure the voter can vote for their preferred candidates.

But who is in charge of elections in Kenya? The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is in charge of the elections in Kenya. IEBC manages the voting process in Kenya.

A voter must first visit the polling station where they registered to vote. The rest of the process of voting in Kenya is as follows.

1. Voter Identification

Voter identification ensures that the voter’s name is indeed in the voter’s register. It is mandatory to provide an identification card (ID) or a valid Kenya passport for voter identification and to vote. A person will not be alowed to vote without identification documents

During the process of voter identification, the polling clerk verifies the voter’s information in the voter’s register (the system). This guarantees that indeed the person is a validly registered voter.

The polling clerk calls out the voter’s name loudly, if the name appears in the register of voters.

Identifying the voter’s information also ensures that they are registered in that polling station and they are indeed eligible to vote at the same polling station.

The polling cleark refers the voter to the Presiding Officer, if the voter’s name does not appear or the details are incorrect.

2. Issuance of stamped ballot papers

After the identification of a voter, the next polling clerk should issue the voter with six stamped ballot papers. The ballot papers are stamped at the back. The six ballot papers are for all the six candidates mentioned above. The ballot paper should be stamped with the official mark of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

The voter should then be directed to a voting booth (or one of the compartments of the polling station) where they will select their preferred candidates.

3. The voter marks the ballot papers

The voter should be alone in the booth (or compartment) when marking the ballot papers since voting in Kenya is by secret ballot. The secret ballot ensures the voter’s choices in the election are anonymous and foils any plans to influence the voter by intimidation, blackmailing or potential vote-buying.

If a person is unable to read or write or is incapacitated because of blindness or other physical cause from voting in the manner prescribed in the electoral regulations, the presiding officer should permit the voter to be assisted by a person of their (voter’s) own free choice. The Presiding Officer can also assist in this case in case there is no assistant.

No person other than the person chosen by the voter should enter the compartment whilst the voter is casting the vote. The assistant or the Presiding Officer should take an oath of secrecy before assisting the voter. They should mark the ballot paper as directed by the voter.

The voter assistant should be 18 years and above, can only assist one voter and must be under oath.

Usually, the style of marking a ballot paper is by using either a tick () or a cross () against the name (or nickname) and symbol of a voter’s candidate (the symbol is either a party symbol or a symbol of an independent candidate). A voter should not use both symbols but only use one. Also, make sure to mark inside the box.

Using more than one symbol above (a mark or a tick}, or any other symbols, or even marking outside the indicated box, leads to that ballot becoming a spoilt vote. The vote does not count towards the total votes of a voter’s preferred candidate for any of the six positions.

4. The voter casts their votes

After marking the six ballot papers, the voter should fold each of them to conceal their vote. There are six ballot boxes provided for each position in the election. Therefore, the voter should proceed to cast each vote in the six ballot boxes provided for each position (the color of the lid corresponds to the color of the ballot paper). This is done in the presence of the presiding officer and the full view of the party agents.

The voter needs to ensure they place each vote in the proper box. Failure to do that makes the vote that appears in the wrong box to become a spoilt vote, for example, placing a vote for a gubernatorial candidate (a governor) in the presidential candidates’ box.

5. Marking finger with indelible ink

After casting the votes, the voter proceeds to the exit where there is a clerk. A mark is put on the small finger of the left hand or the space between the index finger and the middle finger (chill sign) in case of nail polish or henna, to show that someone has voted.

The voter assistant (other than the Presiding Officer) is marked on the left thumb or the space between the index finger and the thumb (gun sign) in case of nail polish or henna

The mark is made with indelible ink. The ink cannot be removed easily. The ink prevents someone from coming back to vote for a second time because it is proof that someone has already voted.

6. The Voter leaves polling centre

After voting, a voter is not allowed to remain at the polling station. The voter should, therefore, leave the polling station. The voter can go home, to work or engage in another activity and wait for the vote tallying and final results.

Most people follow the proceedings of the tallying and presentation of final votes on their televisions and radios. IEBC is in charge of the tallying of votes and the announcement of final results. The voter is then able to know how their candidates performed.

This image shows a summary of the voting process in Kenya, from voter identification to voter leaving the polling station.

And that is the complete voting process in Kenya. You can also read about the Types of Elections in Kenya.

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