What you need to know:
- With the electoral officials will be a community health worker designated a queuing clerk for each polling station tasked with checking the temperature of the voters and candidates.
- In case a voter has a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees Celsius or displaying symptoms of Covid-19, the queuing clerk will immediately inform the presiding officer and the affected voter will be advised to seek medical attention.
The requirement for an ambulance on standby in every ward, temperature checks before entry into polling station and voters having their own pens are Election Day measures to curb Covid-19.
With the electoral officials will be a community health worker designated a queuing clerk for each polling station tasked with checking the temperature of the voters and candidates.
In case a voter has a temperature higher than 37.5 degrees Celsius or displaying symptoms of Covid-19, the queuing clerk will immediately inform the presiding officer and the affected voter will be advised to seek medical attention.
IEBC will liaise with county governments to have at least one ambulance per ward on standby in case of medical evacuation.
The queuing clerk shall also ensure availability of special voting booths.
A clerk will request a voter to either temporarily lower or take off their mask for clear identification.
On the eve of polling, the presiding officer (PO) shall collect election material, including the personal protective equipment comprising face shields, gloves, disposable or re-washable caps, masks and neck strips from the returning officer.
On arrival at the polling station, the PO shall confirm availability of election material, including PPE, check the health condition of electoral officials and availability of water and soap at a strategic point near the main entrance into the compound.
The PO is also required to ensure adherence to physical distance of 1.5 metres and that the polling station has been disinfected.
These are protocols for conducting electoral activities in the Covid-19 context, prepared by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
The health protocols will apply during voter registration, campaigns and voting day, including by-elections scheduled in December.
The IEBC says campaigns will have to be conducted through social and mainstream media. For areas where gatherings are inevitable, the guidelines for crowd management will be followed.
On Election Day, the layout of polling stations and tallying centres shall reflect the 1.5 metres social distance.
Sick employees will be expected to stay home.
The Covid-19 pandemic guidelines to be applied when accessing the commission premises during voter registration and elections make it mandatory for IEBC officials and voters to use face masks and undergo temperature checks.
The IEBC measures aim at integrating the Ministry of Health guidelines in the management of the pandemic during the conduct of elections and other processes.
This means that individuals accessing the commission premises including IEBC officials, will also be required to use alcohol based sanitisers placed at strategic locations, wash hands, avoid gatherings or crowds and implement social and physical distance protocols to check the spread of the pandemic.
The guidelines also protect vulnerable populations. Persons with proven pre-existing medical conditions as well as the elderly, the disabled, lactating mothers, pregnant mothers and the sick, will be given priority.
Frequent cleaning of all surfaces and objects shall be done, as well as ensuring that indoor spaces or venues have adequate ventilation to increase air circulation.
The electorate will also be encouraged to use their own items such as pens or writing material where applicable to reduce chances of sharing and physical contact.
While IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati notes that the commission’s mandate is to conduct and supervise elections and referenda and that the mandate of managing the pandemic is with the Ministry of Health, it cannot be left behind in ensuring that the Covid-19 guidelines are observed.
“The global pandemic has fundamentally placed additional obligations on the commission as it carries out its mandate by requiring it to ensure Covid-19 mitigation measures are in place to protect citizens, its employees and stakeholders,” Mr Chebukati says.
He notes that the conduct of elections has the potential of engendering transmission of the disease to a large number of people in the electoral cycle, if not managed.
“It is apparent at the moment that there is a missing link between ‘public health safety concerns’ and election management in the face of the global Covid-19pandemic.”
The guidelines will be crucial in the registration of voters, registration of candidates for elections, campaigns, partner and stakeholder engagement, voter education, electoral training, voting and management of results.
“Successful preparations and management of elections requires the commission and other stakeholders to put in place strategies to ensure system-wide compliance to the pandemic prevention and management,” says Mr Chebukati.
Article 82 (c) of the constitution mandates IEBC to carry out continuous registration of citizens as voters.
Section 5 (1) of Elections Act 2011, requires the commission to carry out registration of voters and revision of the voter register.
This applies in the case of a General Election, by-election between the date of the declaration of the vacancy of the seat and the date of the by-election, and where an election petition is filed regarding an electoral area and the date of the by-election.
The pandemic has, specifically, extensive impact on voter registration by disrupting the continuous registration of voters.
The current biometric voter registration system involves direct data capture, where applicants’ biographic details and biometrics are captured at the registration centre.
This process poses immediate health-related challenges to the voter and registration official. To safeguard the two, the commission will have to apply the guidelines.
“These measures are not conclusive but guide the development of more robust and specific guidelines as the pandemic unfolds. Where Covid-19 specific containment measures are not expressly stated in this document, the MoH guidelines on washing hands, wearing of face masks and maintaining social and physical distancing shall apply,” Mr Chebukati says.
Already, the commission established the Covid-19 crisis management committee. It also postponed by-elections in six electoral areas, among them, Msambweni Constituency, following the death of the MP Suleiman Dori on March 9, 2020, as it sought to put its house in order.
The by-election was to be held within 90 days of the occurrence of the vacancy as stipulated in the Elections Act.
Mr Chebukati notes that the pandemic poses additional challenges to electoral processes and raises concerns for the holding of free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections while ensuring the safety of citizens.
Whereas few countries have held elections during the pandemic, others have had them postponed.
In Africa, Burundi, Benin and Ivory Coast have conducted elections during the period. Cameroon, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Libya, South Africa, Tunisia and Zimbabwe, among others, had theirs postponed.