Voter panic in Homa Bay after polling centre moved

A voter verifies his biometric details at Posta Grounds in Homa Bay Town on May 10,2022 to confirm if he is eligible to participate in the August 9 election.

Photo credit: George Odiwuor | Nation Media Group.

Confusion and panic marred the first two days of voter verification in Homa Bay County as some residents found their names transferred to new polling stations without their consent.

Voters registered at the Sango Academy in Arujo ward in Homa Bay Town constituency were all transferred to new stations.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said the transfer was made after the owner of the school, which was used in previous elections, introduced new conditions before his property could be used by the government.

Homa Bay Town IEBC returning officer Gregory Odhiambo said the owner wanted some form of payment from the commission before his school could be used as a polling station.

"The polling station [had existed] since 2013 when the larger Rangwe constituency was split into Rangwe and Homa Bay Town constituencies. But it no longer exists and voters were moved to a new station," he said.

All its 2,358 registered voters have been transferred.

Mr Odhiambo said the voters were transferred to the Arujo location chief’s office, a stone’s throw from the school.

But some of the voters are now registered in stations in Gem West ward in Rangwe constituency, while others are in Homa Bay Town Central ward.

The affected voters said they were not informed about the transfer, with some finding their names registered in wards and constituencies where they did not intend to vote.

Mr Emanuel Mwita, for example, found his name at the Kanyach Kachar Primary School polling station in Rangwe constituency.

"I have been voting in Homa Bay Town constituency. I have not been given a convincing answer to why my name has been moved when I did not know the aspirants in the new area," he said.

The move, the voters said, is likely to prevent some people from casting their ballot in the August 9 elections.

Surprises on polling day

Mr Bernard Ododa, whose name was moved to Municipal Hall in Homa Bay Town Central ward, said voters who do not verify their information and show up on election day, will be surprised when they are told they are not on the register.

"Senior citizens will undoubtedly be the ones greatly affected by the transfer. Most of them will show up to vote only to be turned away," he said.

Others said they did not mind the transfer but their only worry was that their new stations are too far from their homes and they will not be able to afford transport.

Some aspirants who were banking on Sango Academy as one of their strongholds have asked the IEBC to explain to the public why voters were moved to new stations without their consent.

Arujo ward aspirant Timothy Otieno said the transfer will affect the outcome of the polls.

He said he will take the lead in encouraging residents to verify their names to be sure where they will vote.

"If possible, the kits should be taken door to door. If this is not done, a lot of people will be left out," he said.

Homa Bay Senate independent aspirant Michael Koji wrote a letter to the IEBC asking it to clarify why the transfers happened without voters being informed.

"Kindly and urgently intervene to clear the mess and come out clearly on this and give appropriate information with regard to these transfers made affecting [a] majority of the public,” the letter said.

“This in essence will automatically create voter apathy [which is] unwarranted and will not meet the threshold set in Articles 10, 38, 81 and 83 (3) of the [Constitution] of Kenya, Elections Act and its regulations."

Mr Odhiambo said the only sure way of identifying misplaced voters is through verification.

By Tuesday morning, 99 people from Arujo ward had verified their details and five were found to have been transferred to different polling stations out of the electoral area.

"Verification is done to check on names, ID numbers and other information. Let everyone embrace the exercise for us to make necessary changes where applicable," Mr Odhiambo said.

Voters who found their particulars captured in ways they did not like were given forms to fill out for the mistakes to be corrected.


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