Low voter turnout has characterised Tuesday's General Election across the country with the 2022 polls staring at recording the lowest numbers since the promulgation of the Constitution in 2010.
The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) said only 12 million registered voters had cast their ballots as at 4pm on Tuesday, an hour to the close of the polling stations.
Speaking during the Commission's second briefing at the Bomas of Kenya — the national tallying centre — IEBC Commissioner Francis Wanderi said the 12,065,803 people who had voted, out of the 22.1 million registered voters, equates to 56.1 per cent of the total registered voters.
Mr Wanderi said the figures were only for those who had been identified through the electronic system, meaning the number could rise after the conclusion of the exercise.
"By around 4pm, 12 million out of 22.1 million registered voters had voted, representing 56.17 per cent of voter turnout, excluding voting through the manual register," said Mr Wanderi.
Long queues of voters
"There were, however, still long queues of voters at polling stations and where voting started late, time lost will be compensated," he added.
Nonetheless, the electoral agency was optimistic that it will hit over 60 per cent voter turnout when voting is concluded.
"At 56 per cent, we are still doing well because the voting is still going on, and in some areas the voter turnout is very very high. I would not say that the voter turnout is low or we have a problem with the turnout. I think we will hit a turnout of above 60 per cent," said Mr Wanderi.
Be it as it may, the turnout is likely to be much lower than the 85.91 percent recorded in 2013 elections and 79.51 in the 2017 polls.
30 per cent at noon
The commission had earlier in a press briefing said that it had recorded about 30 per cent voter turnout as at 12 noon, a figure it tied to delays in the start of voting in certain areas and the failure of the Kiems kits to identify voters.
“As at noon today, 6, 567, 869 Kenyans had turned up to vote equating to 30.65 per cent of the total 22.12 million registered voters,” IEBC Vice-Chairperson Juliana Cherera had earlier said.
She said that polling stations opened to the public at 6am in Kenya and the diaspora and many Kenyans braved the cold morning to present themselves to vote.
“We appreciate that Kenyans woke up early in the morning at various polling stations hours before they were opened,” said the vice chairperson.
Ms Cherera pointed out that voting was ongoing in 12 countries including Burundi, Rwanda, South Sudan, UK, South Africa, Canada, USA, Uganda, Tanzania, UAE, Qatar and Germany.
“Voting in diaspora will take place from 6am to 5pm local time of the respective countries,” she said.
Besides the low numbers, Tuesday's election also experienced network hitches, failure of voter identification kits and mix up in ballot papers leading to postponement of voting in at least two other constituencies.
The electoral agency said that it has suspended voting in Kitui Rural and Rongai constituencies following a mix-up in pictures of candidates on the ballot paper.
Ms Cherera told journalists that the commission had decided to stop voting in the two areas with a new date set to be announced later through a gazette notice.
The two areas now join Mombasa and Kakamega counties where voting for gubernatorial seats was postponed, and Pokot South and Kacheliba constituencies as well as five wards.
“As you are aware, elections for gubernatorial elective position in Kakamega and Mombasa counties and for the member of National Assembly for Kacheliba and Pokot South constituencies were postponed on Monday to a later date to be announced through a gazette notice,” said Ms Cherera.
“Further, the commission is postponing election for member of National Assembly in Kitui Rural and Rongai Constituencies, because wrong candidates’ pictures and the details were printed on the ballot papers, to a later date to be announced through a gazette notice,” she added.
Ms Cherera further said voting had also been disrupted in Eldas constituency following an incident of gun fire on Monday night, with election in the area adjourned until the issue is resolved.
Election officials in Turkana constituency were also replaced following what the commission said was an accident that injured officials leading to their admission to hospital.
Gunfight in Eldas
“Regarding security, last night the commission was alerted of incidents of gunfire in Eldas constituency election office in Wajir County where ballot materials were stored.
"During the gunfight, election officials remained trapped inside the offices preparing to dispatch materials to polling stations. Election has been adjourned and voting shall begin once the issue is resolved,” Ms Cherera said.
The commission also said that it has authorised the use of the manual voter register in Makueni and Kakamega counties following the failure of the Kiems kit. Ms Cherera said the physical registers will be used in 84 polling stations in Makueni and 154 polling stations in Kakamega.
“IEBC has authorised the use of manual voter register in Kibwezi West, Malaba, Matungu, Mumias West and Mumias East constituencies,” Ms Cherera said.
Kiems kits failure
Regarding failure of the Kiems kits, the electoral agency said the issue was isolated and was not widespread.
“On the failure of Kiems kits, we have received 200 failure reports. The failure is not widespread. Technology do break down and we have ways to address that, which we have done.
"We expect that one or two may present a malfunction but that does not mean it is widespread,” said IEBC commissioner Justus Nyang’aya.
However, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya Alliance raised concerns over the failure of the kits, claiming it was only affecting their strongholds.
In a terse letter to IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati by Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s legal adviser Paul Mwangi, the political outfit accused the electoral body of ganging up with the United Democratic Alliance to completely outlaw the use of manual registers.
“Our information is that despite the fact that the Court of Appeal upheld the use of the manual registers in the event of a total failure of technology, your electoral officers are receiving information from the officers of the Commission that manual registers shall not be used,” said Mr Mwangi.
“Mr chairman, you and your commissioners are in the process of executing a flagrant contempt of court, and worse, a heinous electoral offense,” he added.
Azimio went on to demand that IEBC makes public all the polling stations where voting was affected because of failure of Kiems kits.
Despite the hitches experienced, Ms Cherera said that the commission was working hard to ensure that materials were in place for a smooth running of the General Election.
Ms Cherera explained that should there be delays in opening or interruption in voting at a polling station, the presiding officer would extend the hours of the polling station by the amount of time lost.
“The commission urges members of the public to use the toll-free lines – 1543 and 1544 – should they wish to bring incidences to the Commission’s attention,” said Ms Cherera.