Kenya’s 2017 elections are fool-proof: Christopher Musando
By Lilian Kaivilu
Christopher Musando, manager in charge of ICT systems and data centre support at the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is confident that the country is set for a free and fair elections come August 2017. He explains how…
Take us through the process from voting to the final results tally
Voting in Kenya is manual. We do biometric voter registration, we do electronic voter identification and we do electronic results transmission. But we do not do electronic voting neither do we do electronic tallying.
How safe is the Electronic Voter Identification System (EVID) in terms of ensuring a free and fair election?
The EVID is locked in one polling station. You cannot use it in another station. If you try to use it in another polling station it will not work. So we will strip the data into the EVIDS. On the Election Day, the presiding officer will open the polling station electronically in the EVID. The EVID will log the time that the station was opened. It will also show the date, time, name of polling station and number of registered voters on the screen. This information will be shown to by party agents by the Presiding Officer (PO). He will then click the ‘Open’ or ‘Scan’ button on the device. The PO will scan a QR code that will be given to each polling station. This QR code will come separately from the device. And if an EVID for polling station goes to Polling station B, the QR code will not work. So the polling station will not open.
Does the device carry the data for only that particular station?
Each EVID device carries full biometrics for 700 people per polling station. It also carries data for the whole constituency. We do that because some people may get lost during voting and they go to the wrong polling stations. So when a voter goes to the wrong polling station and try to identify themselves, the EVID will tell them the right polling station. It will not just reject the voter’s name.
So the voting is manual?
Once you have appeared in a polling station on the Election Day, submitted your ID and biometrics and successfully identified, EVID will capture your details. The next thing is that you will be issued with ballot papers given by the election officers. You will then proceed to the ballot booth and do the manual voting by ticking on the relevant boxes with a biro. You will then drop your ballot papers in the relevant ballot boxes. You will then go to an officer who will put for you the ink on your finger before you exit the polling centre.
How about those who attempt to vote a second time?
If for some reasons, a voter wants to be cheeky and vote a second time in a different polling station, the EVID will refer you back to the very polling station that you voted in. And even if you remove your ink hoping to vote a second time, the EVID will sound an alarm and tell you that you have already voted. This is because the device has already logged your biometrics into the system. And remember, trying to vote twice is an election offence.
The electronic system failed in the 2013 General Election? Are we set this time round?
We are fine now. You see, we are now four months to the election and we are receiving our first batch of the EVIDs next week. According to the new laws, we are supposed to inspect the register biometrically. So we are going to do the verification from May 10. So we have enough time to test the technology. The last batch should be arriving mid may; 60 days before the election, which in our case is June 8th.
So it is 6pm on the polling day. What happens next after everyone has voted?
There is procedure for closing the polling station in the EVID system. Once the last person has voted, the polling station will now be converted into a tallying centre. The presiding officer will call the party agents, the observers, security agents and announce the close of the station and announce the start of the tallying process.
They will open the sealed ballot boxes in the presence of all the agents, pour out the ballot papers and count them manually. Once counting is over, they will be using the Form 34 to fill in the results. The form is pre-printed with some security features. After tallying, all the forms will be signed by the party agents and the independent candidates’ agents.
Voting is manual. Is this stage still manual?
The Presiding Officer will then go back to the EVID. He will launch the app for results transmission. This app is already installed in the EVID system. The app has all the details for the candidates. The agents will oversee the entry of the votes for each candidate running for each seat. The PO will then proceed to ‘Transmit results’ button. The system will then pop up ‘Are you sure you want to transmit results?’ question in the system. All this will happen in the presence of the party agents and the security personnel in the tallying centre. Once everyone in the room agrees with the figures, the PO will click ‘YES’ on the EVID before moving to the next page. The Evid will then provide a summary report of the polls at that particular tallying centre. He will then confirm. The PO will then press the ‘SUBMIT’ button. At this stage, the device is locked and it cannot undo the process.
At what point would there be possible rigging?
There is nothing like that. Nothing. That is pure speculation. I have taken you through the process and there is no chance of a mix-up. The results are then transmitted to three locations: to the constituency tallying centre, the county tallying centre and the national tallying centre. This time, we are considering KICC, Bomas of Kenya and the Kasarani Gymnasium. But I think our commissioners settled on Bomas of Kenya.
So will that be the final stage of results transmission?
What is running on the EVID is the front end. The back end is here in the server. Every candidate is coded. So when the servers receive the results, they will just add for each candidate. The back-end system has a projection function. This is now what you will see on the screens. We will be seeing the results come and adding themselves. At this level, there is no intervention. Even us, we will just sit and watch. There is no intervention.
Going forward, is there a chance of going fully electronic in our voting system as a country?
Yes of course! What the Election Amendment Act 2016 tells us is that we implement technology progressively. That is what we are doing. For now we are just dealing with what we have. Once we have finished that, then we will progressively implement the technology. With time, we will move to the iris biometrics, the facial map and so on. So if you do not have fingers, we will be able to take a map of your face.