• The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) has called on all Kenyans of eligible age to register as voters, ahead of the national elections set to take place in about 530 days.

    Rolled out last week Monday 15, 2016, the voter registration exercise is expected to continue for one month up to March 15, 2016.

    The exercise presents an opportunity for the electoral body to increase the number of registered voters across the nation. This is also a great platform for qualified Kenyans especially the youth, to take the initiative to register as voters and be part of the group that will determine Kenya’s future.

    “The month-long Mass Voter Registration that commenced on Monday is a countrywide campaign targeting those who had not registered by the 2013 polls, or since then,” Mohamed Alawi, IEBC Commissioner said in a statement.

    Mr Alawi noted that the IEBC has rolled out the project early to allow the body plenty of time to prepare the register and ensure that it is credible, complete and up-to-date, accessible and verifiable. He reminded Kenyans that “the last day to register as a voter for the next elections will be on May 10, 2017.” This is in accordance with law stipulated in the constitution, which stops the registration of voters three months to the election date to allow for the preparation and verification of the register.

    Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology

    Introduced in the 2012 registration process, the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology will be used in the current exercise too.

    According to Alawi, “this method of registration eliminates cheating and double registration.” He verified the confusion between electronic voter registration and electronic voting, saying the latter refers to the casting of one’s vote via a machine instead of a ballot paper.

    Upon registration, an individual is issued with an acknowledgment slip. This slip is not a necessity on the day of voting because a voter’s status will be confirmed by the fingerprints using the Electronic Voter Identification Device (EVID).

    “These were the only machines used to register the 14.3 million voters,” said Alawi adding that the IEBC is “targeting to register about 8 million potential new voters for the 2017 general elections.

    Speaking during the launch of the 30-day mass voter registration drive, IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan said the exercise will continue even after the stipulated time, but at the constituency level. He added that another drive will take place same time next year.

    After the conclusion of the two mass voter registration drives, IEBC hopes to have registered eight million new voters to bring the total number of voters registered in Kenya to 22 million. This is according to data obtained from the National Registration Bureau which had issued 23.8 million Identification cards as of December 2014.

    Although IEBC had planned to “deploy 15,000 BVR kits in over 24, 557 centers at the cost of Sh2 billion, the commission was forced to revise the deployment of kits downwards to 2,878 when it received only Sh500m from the national Treasury. But donors, through UNDP, have since stepped in with funds to enable the commission to double the number of BVR kits to 5,756,” Alawi noted.

    He called on all eligible Kenyans who have reached the age of 18 and have valid identity cards or passports to seize the opportunity to register as voters in order to take part in the next election as voters or candidates for the various elective seats.

    Why citizens should register as voters

    Apart from being a right that a citizen should enjoy and exercise, registering as a voter, gives you -the citizen- the opportunity to select the leaders of your choice.

    As a voter, you have a chance to vie for elections in whatever capacity you deem fit. By law, only registered voters are allowed to vie for electoral seats.

    Since this is a right extended to a citizen, by registering and consequently voting, one justifies the fact that these rights are important to the citizens.

    Voting gives legitimacy to elected leaders. It gives voters the right to demand resources and other rights from their elected leaders. If such leaders fail to represent their interests, voters should and can reject them.

    Registering as a voter is one thing, deciding to vote is another. Registering means you can vote if you want to. For Kenyans to have a say in who leads them how and why they should ensure that their votes are in the ballot box come August 8, 2017.

    image Credit: IEBC