Guest Post: Kenyan votes roll in

Another guest post from Jessica Grody in Nairobi

Vote tallying continues more than 24 hours after the Kenyan polls closed. Although results are expected within 48 hours, the IEBC, Kenya’s independent election commission, has up to seven days to release the official results.

One of the most shocking figures of the vote tally is the percentage of rejected votes. Currently, over 5% of the total votes cast have been labeled invalid. Votes are rejected if the ballot papers were filled out incorrectly or placed in the wrong boxes. Voters were given six colored pieces of paper as ballots, one for each position available, and were instructed to place ballots in the matching boxes. Many complained that colors were very similar to begin with – the pale green looked like the pale blue which looked like the pale purple. Voters might have had challenges differentiating between the colors in the best of circumstances, a prospect that was made even more difficult for citizens who cast their votes in the many polling stations that lacked electricity or where voting continued long past sundown.

There is some discussion over how the rejected ballots will effect the final tally. The Kenyan Constitution states that the president must receive more than half of the votes cast, and some legal scholars are claiming that the rejected votes should count in the tally of votes cast. This could be enough to put Uhuru Kenyatta, who is currently leading with 53% of the tallied votes, below the 50% threshold.

Certainly the technological failures of this election will be greatly scrutinized in the coming weeks. The government spent a great deal of time and money purchasing biometric voter registration kits, which recorded voters’ fingerprints during registration and were intended to greatly reduce voter fraud. However, many polling stations did not use the electronic registry on election day because the equipment had inadequate battery life or failed to recognize fingerprints, and because many election officials could not remember how to access or use the system. They resorted to the manual voter registration book, which is much slower and more susceptible to tampering.
The IEBC is also taking heat for major delays in vote transmission when the servers crashed. Improving the transparency in vote counting was a priority in this election, since alleged improprieties in that stage of the 2007 election contributed to the disputed results and ensuing violence.

While the atmosphere in Kenya is still calm, everyone remains glued to their television and radio sets waiting for the rest of the results to be tallied.

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