Monitor the Elections – a Step-by-Step Guide(1)

Samples of correctls marked ballots. source: IEBC
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A step by step guide for journalists

During the April 2017 party primaries, we observed quite a number of cases involving alleged rigging in many areas of Kenya. In many instances, candidates who lost appealed against the official nomination results. The media solely reported on the claims and those who countered them, they rarely reported what reporters actually observed at the polling stations.

We deidacte this step-by-step guide to those who dare to make a difference and collect evidence themselves. It is not meant to seed suspicion. On the contrary, journalists who have seen that – to the best of their knowledge – the elections were free and fair should report accordingly and balance claims with facts. (updated file: August 7)

Accredited journalists play a special role in the electoral processes. They are among the privileged who are allowed to stay in the polling stations and tallying centres whereas voters have to leave the polling station after casting their ballot.

As a journalist, you should be impartial. You cannot openly subscribe to any political party. You should not accept money so as to favorably report on any one political side. If you do, all your reporting will be biased. This means, you are only meant to monitor the voting process and simply report on what you see as you see it.

For a completely unbiased journalistic reporting on the election process, pls follow this step-by-step guide:

We will follow up with a part 2 and continually update it in the days and weeks before the elections.

1. Before the elections

1.1 Do your homework

  • Get your IEBC accreditation card. Otherwise, you will not be allowed in the polling stations and tallying centres. Officially, an accreditation with the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) is required so one can be qualified for election reporting. But County IEBC officers also accept lists of journalists compiled by media companies and will distribute the accreditation batches to the people on the lists.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Elections Act and its Regulations. Knowing the election regulations and schedule will be relevant during this period.
  • In your area of reporting, it is important to know where the polling stations located?
  • Also, find out which polling stations and tallying centres are of special interest, e.g. because the seats are highly contested?

Sources:
Candidates Lists
List of polling stations (download: polling-stations-and-tallying-centres)
Results of 2013 polls (download: 4TH MARCH 2013 GENERAL ELECTION DATA)
Elections Regulations (download: Kenya-Elections_General-Regulations-as-of2017
Schedule to the regulations with forms (download: SCHEDULE2017-kenya-elections-regulations

1.2 Check the voter register

The IEBC is obliged to publish the register online for scrutiny by the public (Elections Act Sec. 6 (2)). But they have not done it and do not intend to do so. Some associations and media have bought the database, but they had to sign a contract preventing them from sharing it.
According to the IEBCs voter education manual, page 134, a printed register of voters is to be posted at the respective polling stations seven days before the election day (8th August 2017) so that voters can check if they are in the register – and if their dead uncle still is in the register. It remains unclear if the register will still be altered or “cleaned” and if inaccuracies will be found in the process. But at least it leaves opportunities for reporting on it.

1.3 Contact and accompany IEBC staff.

IEBC staff will inspect the polling stations and confirm that all provided materials are there. You could accompany them and in the process verify how transportation of ballot papers and ballot boxes will be organized. Check and note if there are chances of failure or late opening of the polling stations – which sometimes has caused chaos and opportunities of rigging.

2 Before the Opening of the Polling Stations on Election Day

2.1 Checks ahead

Will the voting material and the IEBC staff be there in time? How is this assured? Where are they the night before opening? Transportation services of voting material has been tendered by the IEBC for each county separately. Who is doing it in the county where you are reporting from? The electoral materials include labels, polling booths, ballot boxes, ballot papers, stamp and stamp pads, indelible ink, KIEMs machine, gas lamps, pens, various tabulation forms etc

2.2 Shortly before the polling starts (5:30 a.m.)

Who is present? When did they arrive? Are voters already lined up?

The procedures at the polling station require all personnel to be there at least half an hour before opening. The following persons are allowed in polling stations:

  • IEBC officials with official badges and reflector jackets that describe their position: Presiding Officer and his / her deputy and clerks. The number of clerks is not prescribed. The division of labour among them would ideally require four of them.
  • At least three election observers according to their experience
  • Police who guard the election process
  • Agents of the parties and/or candidates. Only one agent per party or candidate is allowed
  • Media personnel with accreditation card

During the election process voters and persons assisting voters will also be allowed as long as necessary for the voting process.

2.3 How many voters are registered at the polling station?

The maximum is 700. How many ballots were provided? They come in booklets with 50 sheets each. A number that is much higher than the number of registered voters has in the past left room for rigging, as well as a number that is much lower may lead to a scarcity of ballots.

2.4 What is the setup of the polling station?

Does it allow free movement of voters without interference of interested parties? Is secrecy of the ballot ensured? Are the limits of the polling station well damarcated and has it a sign directing the voters to the place?

The following picture shows how the IEBC thinks a polling station could be set up:

2.5 Note the name of the polling station and the number, your arrival and departure time to allow you to later file an impartial report if anything happens at that place.

2.6 Check if the required material for voting is complete. You find the List in Regulation No. 61

 

3 Opening of the Polling Station

3.1 The Presiding Officer is required to open the transparent boxes for everybody present to confirm they are empty. Does s/he do it? Then the PO with the help of agents must seal the boxes, record the serial numbers and have them placed at a spot where everybody present can see them at all times. (Regulation 67, (1) and (2) )
3.2 You and everybody else who is allowed to be present may check the ballot papers and even note their serial numbers.
3.3 Note whether the opening of the polling station was disrupted by anybody and if yes what was done.

4. Monitor the Verification of the Voter

See if the steps are followed as it should be:
4.1. Use of the (EVID) Electronic Voter Identification Device:

The EVID actually is an app inside a tablet with a finger scanner. It contains the whole database of the voter register including the fingerprints and the polling station to which a voter is registered. Each voter should be required to place his thumb on the fingerprint reader. The app should find any the voter in the register and verify who he is. If the voter has already voted at that polling station it will not allow the clerks to proceed. Also, if the voter is registered at another station they should tell him to kindly proceed to that polling station. If he is not in the database at all he will be denied to vote.

4.2. In tests carried out by the IEBC, five percent of the registered voters were not identified by their fingerprint even though it was in the database.
In case this happens a clerk should type the number of the voter`s ID or passport that he used to register into the EVID to find him in the database. Then he marks in the database that the voter has appeared in the polling station to vote thereby blocking the same dataset of being used again for getting ballots and vote.

4.3 The printed voters register of the polling station must also be used. The names of those who have appeared to vote and given ballots must be crossed out in the register.

4.4 A clerk must call out the voters name loudly from the register so that all can hear it then crosses the name from the voters register. Does s/he do it? Then s/he passes over the ID/Passport to the next clerk.

If a voter is not found in the electronic register but in the printed register, he may still vote. But the IEBC officials must for each case fill out a form (No. 32 A, link) to document that case. The form is signed by the voter and the presiding officer as well as by agents or candidates as witnesses. Does this happen?

5.The Voting

5.1 Casting the ballot

The next clerk receives the voters ID/Passport from other clerk, stamps the back of the ballot paper and detaches it from the parliamentary ballot paper counterfoils and issues the ballot paper to the voter. Then he directs the voter to proceed to the polling booth to secretly mark his/her preferred candidates after which the voter puts the marked ballot papers into the respective ballot boxes. The clerk hands over the voters ID/Passport to the 4th clerk.

Notes
  • Unstamped ballots are not invalid! But officials must stamp them anyway.
  • To avoid rigging with unused ballots, each voter must receive all the six ballots for the elective positions. And he / she must use all the ballots. Otherwise he/she commits an offence.
  • The voter may however invalidate a ballot before casting it if he/she does not want to cast a vote for a specific position. Or he/she may leave it empty and drob it in the respective box.
  • Nobody may talk to a voter in the polling station except for the IEBC officials and police on duty and a specific person assisting a voter. You as a journalist may not interview a voter in the polling station.

5.2 After Ballot-Casting

The last clerk receives the voters ID/Passport from the 3rd clerk, and marks the left index finger with the indelible ink. In case of an assisted voter, the clerks dips the left thumb of the assistant, hands over to the voter his/her voters card ID/passport.
Then the voter has to leave the polling station without delay. Where the clerks are 3, normally this last part is executed by the Deputy Presiding Officer.

Documentation for your reference and proper reporting:
  • Note the name and number of the polling station
  • Note your arrival and departure time
  • Note the number of registered voters in the polling station and the number of voters who have voted so far
  • Note the number of ballot papers issued to the presiding officer
  • Elections officials present and their gender
  • Any presence of campaign materials/activities within the 400m radius of the polling station
  • Voters who were assisted to vote, reasons for assistance, who assisted them, whether there were persons assisting more than one voter (which is prohibited), whether those assisting took an oath of secrecy and whether they had their left thumb dipped in the indelible ink (required). Also note the gender of those being assisted.
Notes on voting process
  • Note whether there were voters being allowed to vote without proper identification or whose names did not appear in the voters register
  • Were the clerks performing their duties professionally and transparently?
  • Was the secrecy of the ballot being observed?
  • Were voters voting on behalf of someone else?
  • People with disability who voted and how they were facilitated to vote
  • Was anybody refused the right to vote and why?
  • Anybody influencing or intimidating voters to for or against a certain candidate?
  • Note down other observers present and media present.
Emerging Issues
  • Emerging issues such as violence, who committed the violence, did it affect any part or did it delay the electoral process?
  • Ballot stuffing
  • Run out of the polling materials.
  • Voter bribery and intimidation
  • Harassment and influence of women voters and persons with disability
  • Any other
The Presiding Officer

The Presiding Officer commands a lot of powers. The PO may

  • temporarily close the polling station or move it to another place in case of violence, natural disasters or other circumstances, after consulting with the returning officer in charge (Regulation 64)
  • after consultation with the returning officer extend the opening hours of the polling station if voting time was shortened
  • order the removal of persons from the polling station if they misconduct or do not obey by lawful instructions. Regulation 63 (2)
  • the PO has the power to keep order in a radius of 400 meters around a polling station – Regulation 63(6)
  • these last two provisions are only under the condition that measures taken do not prevent voters from peacefully casting their votes.
  • The PO may assist several voters who need it while others are not allowed to assist more than one voter.
Further Hints
Accredited Observers

Observers can be identified by the badges they have to wear. They usually stay the whole day at one polling station. Therefore they are a very good source for reporters. But they are usually not allowed by the observing organization like ELOG (Election Observation Group, www.elog.or.ke ) to talk on behalf of their organization. So if they talk to you, you may only quote them without attributing the information to the source.

Part 2 of this Guide: Counting and Tallying

Relevant Documents:

Elections Act General Regulations as of 2017:
Kenya-Elections_General-Regulations-as-of2017

Schedule with the relevant Forms:

SCHEDULE2017-kenya-elections-regulations