In almost all countries, voters must be registered to be eligible to participate in an election. Voter registration is intended to ensure that everyone entitled to vote can do so, to prevent ineligible persons from voting, and to guard against multiple voting by the same individual.
The accuracy of the voter register is a key element in ensuring that all qualified constituents can enjoy the right to vote. Registration systems should be designed to ensure that women are not indirectly disadvantaged or disenfranchised, as can easily happen in post-conflict countries and elsewhere if procedures are not carefully planned and implemented.
Voter registration should begin with the premise that all citizens who have reached the required age have the right to vote. According to United Nations standards, people should not be denied registration as voters based on such factors as race, sex, language or religion. It is widely accepted that citizens should not have to pay a poll tax or meet literacy, income or education requirements to vote. Voting can legitimately be restricted, however, based on citizenship, mental capacity, or a criminal record.
On August 9 Kenyans will be voting to elect the 5th president who will take over from Uhuru Kenyatta.
Out of the total registered voters, 2.5 million are fresh registered voters who have never participated in any election process.
These groups of voters are more likely to contribute to an increased number of rejected, invalid, disputed or spoiled votes during the election period.
In the last two General Elections, we have witnessed an ascending trend of rejected votes going by the figures from IEBC.
Many voters did know the parameters to use when marking the ballot paper resulting in mistakes. This is occasioned by the stringent rules of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
Prof Macharia Munene-Governance & Political Expert always alludes that a spoiled vote would amount to rejected vote.
This scenario is driven by a lack of voter education on the election process. The Election Act Regulation 71 terms a spoilt ballot as not a vote at all and does not count towards turnout.
These spoilt ballots are never cast into the ballot box. This is different from a stray ballot which the Commission defines as a paper cast in the wrong ballot box.
Rejected ballot papers
During the 2017 presidential election petition, the Supreme Court held that rejected votes should not be included in the final computation of presidential election winners.IEBC terms a rejected vote as a vote which is void, a vote that accords no advantage to any candidate.
IEBC further states that the Presiding Officer may reject any ballot paper, which for example, is not an official ballot paper, that is, it bears a serial number which differs from those on the ballot papers in that polling station and the relevant counterfoil – is of a different size than the official IEBC ballot papers.
Voters should understand that the Supreme Court ruled that spoilt ballot papers are those that are not placed in the ballot box, but are cancelled and replaced where necessary by the Presiding Officer at the polling station during an election exercise.
This differs from the rejected votes, which although placed in the ballot box, are subsequently declared invalid on account of certain factors such as fraud.
A disputed vote according to Election Act is one that the Presiding Officer considers valid but a candidate or an election agent questions. The ballot will be taken into consideration for counting. The Returning Officer at the tallying centre can deal with these disputes.
IEBC has mandated all its officials to assist voters who are not well informed with its rules on the ballot to ensure every Kenyan fully exercises their democratic right.
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“In the case where a voter who is, by reason of a disability or being unable to read or write, and therefore unable to vote in the manner prescribed in these regulations, the presiding officer shall permit the voter to be assisted or supported marking a tick or a cross does not mean a rejected vote but valid, it would though be considered invalid when a mark crosses the marked square on the ballot,” IEBC statement clarifies.