Mapping of Diaspora Polling Stations Presented to Kenyan Members of Parliament
Kenya Diaspora Voting was discussed thoroughly at the Kenya Diaspora Summit in Boston, Massachusetts on April 14, 2012. The Government of Kenya was represented by Hon. Richard Onyonka (Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs) and Ms. Lillian Mahiri-Zaja (Vice-Chair, Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission) who gave keynote addresses. In her keynote address, Lillian Mahiri-Zaja, the Vice-chair of IEBC said Diaspora would vote in regional centers, not Embassies. She acknowledged that the Diaspora wanted electronic voting, to be registered, and they want the process to be started immediately. She said the right to vote is inalienable. “The constitution is clear, and the IEBC will not disenfranchise anybody. However, it is a right that will not be achieved overnight,” she went on to elaborate. The Kenya Diaspora had angst about the voting process being overseen by the partisan Embassies. A great and real concern that could see many prefer no Diaspora voting as a more sane option, if that route is what the IEBC would insist on.
She noted that there are various types of external voting- by post/proxy/electronic etc. All these have challenges which must be recognized from the beginning. There is lack of official census/statistics. There are also concerns about security/privacy to lend credence to the process.
Therefore for the 2013 elections, the IEBC has decided that voting will be done physically in various regions in the Diaspora. Political parties are going to send agents as observers at their own costs. In supporting Lillian Mahiri’s proposal for regional voting, Diaspora need to do its own house cleaning. Hon. Onyonka suggested that we can have regional Diaspora bodies—for voting purposes. In the US-South, north east and west. Europe groups –would need to come up and agree on modalities of operation. Let agenda be known. We need to agree on what is the issue. Let Diaspora set the pace—on how they u choose their leaders.
Hon. Onyonka warned against amorphous Diaspora groups. He said that honorary consuls should be selected through open vetting and voting by Diaspora.
Counting of the votes
Votes will be counted at polling stations—all polling centres will be doing tabulation. To enable political party campaigns-IEBC will approach authorities where there are Kenyans to be allowed to campaign. Ground should be level. She asked Kenyans to support the IEBC.
As a follow up to the resolutions reached at the Kenya Diaspora Summit, Kenyans in the Diaspora from across the globe discussed the major polling centres that would enable them to cast their ballots.
Insistence on Embassy Voting by IEBC will disenfranchise the entire Kenyan Diaspora
KDDC takes cognizance of the fact that the Chairman of IEBC, Mr. Isaack Hassan visited Washington DC soon after the Diaspora Summit and reversed what his Vice-Chair had proposed. The IEBC ‘s current position is that the voting will be done in Embassies and Consulates and will be conducted by “junior embassy staff”. Kenyans in the Diaspora are concerned that Kenyan embassy officials are partisan, operate and make decisions based on party affiliation.
Article 86 of the constitution of Kenya states that “At every election, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries
Commission shall ensure that—
(a) whatever voting method is used, the system is simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent;
(b) the votes cast are counted, tabulated and the results announced promptly by the presiding officer at each polling station;
(c) the results from the polling stations are openly and accurately collated and promptly announced by the returning officer; and
(d) appropriate structures and mechanisms to eliminate electoral malpractice are put in place, including the safekeeping of election materials.
Apart from the fact that distance and costs will prohibit over 95 percent of the Diaspora from voting, the partisanism of most of Kenya’s embassy staff cannot pass the test and spirit of the provisions stated in Article 86 of the constitution of Kenya. IEBC is constitutionally bound to ensure that at each polling station “appropriate structures and mechanisms to eliminate electoral malpractice are put in place, including the safekeeping of election materials.” Kenyans in Kenya now have unfettered access to polling stations. Kenyans in the Diaspora deserve and have the constitutional rights to be accorded similar treatment in regional polling centres nearest to them—and not in inaccessible party-controlled Embassies and Consulates.
Peter Erben, Ben Goldsmith, and Aysha Shujaat in their paper Out‐of‐Country Voting: a Brief Overview IFES White Paper April 2012 International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES) say that “the biggest drawback of this methodology is the level of service provided to voters. Having to attend the embassy or consulate may effectively exclude Diaspora voters because of the cost and time involved in travelling to the embassy to vote and, possibly, register. Further, the embassy facility may not have the capacity to deal with large numbers of voters.’
In-Person Polling Station
Peter Erben, Ben Goldsmith, and Aysha Shujaat say that “a second approach that can be used is the establishment of polling stations in locations where Diaspora populations are concentrated. This will inevitably require the establishment of polling stations outside of Embassy and Consulate premises. Again, in‐person voting provides the greatest protection against fraud. Polling stations outside of Embassies/Consulates allow a much greater level of voting service to be provided and a higher level of enfranchisement.”
Cooperation and Division of Responsibility with Other Institutions
To increase the efficacy of regional Diaspora voting, Peter Erben, Ben Goldsmith, and Aysha Shujaat suggest that “cooperation and division of responsibility with other national institutions, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, can lessen the burden of a thinly resourced Elections Management Board. Further, diversifying registration and voting staff to include election officials, civil servants and representatives of political parties and/or national communities abroad can go a long way in building confidence in the out‐of‐country electoral process.” In the case of Kenyan Diaspora, the enthusiasm for voting runs high and those abroad have expressed interest in helping lessen the burden through volunteering. International observers, specifically the Jimmy Carter Centre, would be approached to observe the process.
In view of this, KDDC via KPV radio station that is listened to throughout the Diaspora, had a live show and to map possible spots and cities to put Polling Stations. What we tried to achieve:
- Kenyans in the Diaspora would not have to drive more than 3-6 hrs maximum to vote.
- Make it a family day out of fun specific to various countries and States. Based on Spring weather, most opted for picnics, grilling, fun day, sports day, amusement parks, dance, beach time etc as a combination of a day out to vote.
- We plan on having volunteers from the Countries/States we live in that have run Democratic elections before to oversee and assist in the Process.
- Look into using Kenyan Churches and Community centers for polling Stations. However, different Countries and States have different suggestions. Libraries and Premises for hire that combine their fun activity of choice.
- The Diaspora from various parts will be ready to work with the people the IEBC will hire, swear in, and give necessary support to those they choose to run the Polling Stations. Diaspora members who are members of certain parties can oversee the process to protect their Party’s interest if the Parties can not send members from Kenya.
- Plan to use the day to reconnect with our Nation, have parts of the day dedicated to promoting unity and show casing our Nation’s achievements.
- We plan to have everyone vote within 12h hours and results to be announced as the process goes on or as par advice from IEBC.
- We truly believe that the Polling Stations is the best and convenient way to have Diaspora vote and talk of a slow progressive Constitution taking our opportunity to vote is just wrong. We want the Legislative Branch to intervene and also understand that it is in their best interest that we vote too.
- We in the Diaspora are ready to roll the infrastructure for this Polling Station process to take place. We are fired up and ready. Telling us that there is not enough time, progressive Constitution, or money will not be what we want to hear. We are ready to even take care of the Polling Masters if need be because we cannot go to the Embassies/Consulates especially the USA that is a continent. Failure to do so will see those candidates with influence in who is running the Embassies in various countries, have an unfair advantage and comprised.
- JUST added: With the new Bio-metric Kits that cost the Kenya Ksh. 3.4 billion, they can be brought out to the Diaspora too and we can be registered too. With such vital info (eye, facial outlines, and 10 finger-printing), we can obtain an ID or PIN which is the next logical step to ELECTRONIC VOTING. We want some of those kits to be brought to the Diaspora as soon as possible to start registering us.
- Below is the table containing our Findings State by State, Country by Country? We suggest mail voting (absentee voting) for Kenyans that are isolated or for places with very few numbers. Asia and Australia to come.
Tegi Obanda (Canada)
With contributions from:
Comfort Munoru Mwangi (Florida USA), Prof. Kefa Otiso (Ohio), Prof. Fulbert Namwamba (USA), Peter Makori (USA) John Kamau (Arizona, USA), Sophie Gitiba (UK), Ochieng’ Okeyo (South Africa), Alex Momanyi (USA), John Munoru, Mtiti Kabiru (Missouri,USA) (USA) amongst others.
This Report was Presented to Members of Parliament, Kenya on May 9, 2012
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