Even though every adult Kenyan has the right to vote (Article 38(3) of the Constitution ) they have to register to vote. This is similar to countries like the United States (ext. link) whereas in many other countries you are automatically registered to vote by being registered as an adult citizen and resident.
About the register and the registration process:
How is the Register of Voters structured?
The register should, according to Section 4 of the Elections Act allot the data of each individual voter to a single polling station, which is located in a ward / constituency / county, to name the electoral areas from the smallest to the largest. This allows the IEBC, who is in charge for the register, to administer the votes separately for each elected position, like the ward’s representative to the county assembly who is elected by the voters in the ward, or like the governor, senator and women representative on the county level or like the Member of the National Assembly (constituency level).
In addition there is the category of registered voters residing outside Kenya (“diaspora” voters)
When does registration take place?
Registration of voters and revision of the register of voters should take place at all times (continuous voter registration) (Section 5 of the Elections Act). But the registration process is halted in the case of some elections:
- In the case of general elections, voter registration ends 60 days before the date of election. (Sec. 5 (1) (a) of the Elections Act) This applies to both the general elections and run-off elections and allows the IEBC and the public to check and “cleanse” the register during that halt period.
- For a by-election, registration is closed between the date of the declaration of the vacancy of the seat concerned and the date of such by-election. This is to prevent groups of voters from shifting their registry to the place of the by-election for the purpose of dominating that election.
- In the case of a referendum, no registration is allowed between the date of the publication of the referendum question and the date of the referendum (90 days).
In addition, if a court determines that a by-election is to be held after a petition is filed for an electoral area, a voter shall not be allowed to transfer his or her vote to the affected electoral area, between the date when the petition is filed and when the by-election takes place.
Where shall voters register?
Voters can choose where to register. And they can later transfer their voter registration to another area up to 90 days before an election. (Elections Act Section 7 ). Upon receipt of the notification of transfer, the Commission shall transfer the voter’s registration particulars to the register of the preferred constituency not later than sixty days preceding the election.
What is the significance of a Mass Voter Registration (MVR)?
The MVR shall not be confused with the continuous voter registration process. MVR is no more than a campaign by the IEBC to facilitate registration and make it a forceful drive. The end of the MVR does legally not end registration itself – though in 2017 there is/was considerable confusion about this, spread by the IEBC itself and by politicians.
How is the the Register of Voters scrutinized?
IEBC should ensure that the register of voters is open for inspection by members of the public at all times to correct any particulars, except for such a period of time that the Commission may consider appropriate. Section 6 of the Elections Act.
The Commission should also, within ninety days from the date of the notice for a general election, open the Register of Voters for inspection for a period of at least thirty days or for a period as the Commission may consider necessary.
The Register of Voters shall be kept at the headquarters of IEBC. Copies of the part of the register for the constituency for which the registration officer is responsible shall be kept at all the constituency offices of the Commission.
What is the technology of registration?
The IEBC is required by Sec. 44 of the Elections Act to use an “integrated electronic electoral system that enables biometric voter registration, electronic voter identification and electronic transmission of results.” Part of that system are the BVR kits – Biometric Voter Registration kits that can be carried to the registration points for capturing the biometric data of registered voters. Biometric data may be “fingerprints, hand geometry, earlobe geometry, retina and iris patterns, voice waves, DNA, and signatures”, according to Sec. 2 of the Elections Act.
What are some the administrative steps before the general election?
IEBC should open the Register of Voters for verification of biometric data by members of the public, not later than sixty days before the date of a general election, at their respective polling stations for a period of thirty days. Section 6A (1) of the Elections Act.
After the period for verification of the biometric data ends, the Commission should revise the Register of Voters and include any changes arising from the verification process.
Also. once the period of verification expires, the Commission shall publish—
- a notice in the Gazette to the effect that the revision is complete; and
- the Register of Voters online as may be prescribed by regulations.
Who is eligible to vote?
The law makes a difference between the right to vote and the eligibility to vote. Voters are eligible to vote in a particular polling station if their name and biometric data are entered in a register of voters in that particular polling station, and if they produce an identification document Section 10 of the Elections Act. This literally means that the law does not necessarily require the IEBC to compare the biometrical of the voter to the data that is in the integrated voting system.
The identification document produced above should be the identification document used at the time of registration as a voter.
However, even if the voter is correctly registered, he/she may still be prohibited from voting by any written law. (see at the end of this page under “additional information”) It does not relieve that person from any penalties to which the person may be liable for voting.
How can I locate the nearest voter registration station?
The IEBC has 24,559 registration centres across the 290 constituencies which are active during the mass voter registration drive. These registration centres become polling centres during elections. Find your registration centre on the IEBC website. Apart from these centres, continuous voter registration is taking place in Huduma centres as well as all Constituency and regional IEBC offices.
How does Biometric Voter Registration System (BVR) operate?
The BVR system is used for registering voters. It comprises a laptop, a finger print scanner and a camera. BVR captures a voter′s facial image, finger prints and civil data or Personally Identifiable Information (PII)-Name, gender, identity card/passport number, telephone number etc.
The registration takes place at the registration centres where an individual is expected to vote. The BVR method of registration was the only system deployed by IEBC to register voters just before the 2013 general elections. A total of 15,000 BVR kits were deployed to 24,614 registration centres which means that not all of the registration centres could be open and active simultaneously.
Data from the BVR machines are transferred to a centralized storage server from which hard copy registers are printed. The physical register, which has thumbnail photo of the voter, is distributed to polling centres for people to check and verify their registration details. IEBC also provides for the register verification online and via SMS. The printed registers are also used as back-ups during voting.
According to the IEBC the BVR ensures that:
- There are multiple methods of identifying voters uniquely (other than names and IDs, there are finger print and facial features)
- That capture of voters′ records is fast, efficient and direct
- Security and privacy of information is enhanced
- Integrity and reliability of information is improved e.g. elimination of duplicates
(Source: IEBC website)
Additional information – source: IEBC
- How to register as a voter?
An eligible voter must present himself or herself to the registration officer with his/her original identification documents at the designated registration centre during working hours.
The applicant fills the Application for Registration form (Form A)
Registered voters will be issued with a registration acknowledgement slip bearing the voter′s details. However, this slip will not be a requirement for voting.
2. When can someone be denied registration?
- When you are under 18 years of age
- When you are not in possession of the original ID card or a valid Kenyan passport
- When one is un-discharged bankrupt
- When you have been found guilty by an election court or reported to be guilty of any election offense during the preceding five years.
- If a competent court declares you to be of unsound mind
3. Is an eligible voter allowed to register more than once?
No! A person is only allowed to register once as a voter in a constituency or registration centre of his or her choice. It is an offense to register more than once.
4. What is the penalty of registering more than once?
Persons who have registered more than once are liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one hundred thousand Kenya shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both. Such persons shall be barred from participating in the immediate election and the next that follows.
5. Can a person transfer as a voter to another registration centre or constituency?
YES! A person may transfer as a voter to another registration centre of his or her choice within the registration period.
(Source: IEBC website)