We lacked funds to acquire Braille ballot papers, IEBC says

Disabled elections

Professor Abdi Gulie, an IEBC Commissioner on July 30, 2022. He said persons living with disabilities (PWDs) will be assisted to vote, especially the blind after the commission lacked funds to purchase braille ballot papers. 

Photo credit: Manase Otsialo I Nation Media Group

People with disabilities, especially the blind, will have to be assisted to vote on August 9, with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) saying it lacked funds to develop the special Braille ballot paper.

On a tour of Mandera County at the weekend, Prof Abdi Gulie, a member of the IEBC, said the agency had no budget for Braille ballots.

“It is unfortunate that we did not have a budget to have Braille ballot papers and for that reason we shall allow them (the blind) to come with their guides to assist in voting,” he said.

Prof Gulie said the blind will be assisted by the presiding officer at polling stations.

He spoke at a forum organised by the IEBC for special-interest groups in Mandera.

Some participants had raised fears their votes may not be recorded accurately.

“I am not sure if a blind voter will come and those assisting him or her will be very sincere in marking the ballot paper. The commission should provide Braille in such cases,” Mr Adan Ahmed said.

On security, Prof Gulie said the IEBC was aware of the threats posed by militants and the national security team was dealing with the issue.

“We are aware of the Al-Shabaab threats, especially in the border counties and not just in Mandera. We have been engaging our sister institutions, particularly the National Police Service and we have had inter-agency security planning ahead of the elections,” he said.

He said plans are in place to protect the elections, including securing the transportation of election materials, officials and polling centres.

He reiterated that the IEBC was committed to overseeing free and fair elections.

He said ballot papers would only be released for distribution in the last week before the elections.

“We are holding the ballot papers for the obvious reasons of not having them too early in the constituencies across the country. We shall be releasing them from Tuesday for far-flung areas. This is our logistical plan at the moment,” Prof Gulie said.

With regular network outages in Mandera and some areas along the borders lacking a reliable network, Prof Gulie said the IEBC had made the necessary arrangements regarding voting and results transmission.

“The commission relies on mobile network operators and in this particular county we have the presence of the three main network operators, and that is Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom. The commission will be relying on these three for purposes of connectivity and transition,” he said.

In areas with no network coverage, he said satellite modems would be provided.

“We shall be using the satellite modems we purchased in 2017 for that purpose and this will only be in those areas identified to lack 3G network coverage,” he said.

Kenya has at least 1,111 polling centres that lack 3G network coverage.