According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) website, “The Commission is responsible … voter education”
On 3rd February the IEBC launched a voter education drive. The purpose of this particular drive is to prepare Kenyans in case of a presidential runoff. However one wonders if Kenyans are adequately prepared, not just for a potential, but for the upcoming election considering 87% of Kenyan’s still believe that voting will take place electronically!
“Voter education officially begins today [3rd February] across the country. The forums will be held in each County Assembly Ward from 10 am. Kenyans are encouraged to confirm details of the specific venues for the meetings at the Constituency Elections Coordinators office. It is important to attend the forums as they will explain what to expect on March 4th…Voters in selected county assembly wards will go through a mock election at the end of this month, the culmination of a voter education effort whose impact might be undermined by the ongoing political campaigns.”
On 12th February the announced that yet the start of another voter education drive was being launched:
“The Justice Ministry, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the Transition Authority and religious leaders came together to spearhead the programme in the race against time to ensure Kenyans learn a lot about the elections, which are 19 days away.” The drive was launched “amid fears that poor voter preparedness could impact negatively on the coming elections”
The wisdom of kicking off voter education drives a month to the election is questionable. Given that essence the Commission will be conducting voter education at the same time that politicians are carrying out their campaigns. And the IEBC recognizes the difficulty that it will face in its attempt to hold voter education during the campaigns.
James Oswago the CEO of the IEBC is quoted as stating. “The exercise will run throughout the month despite the political campaigns. We are not competing with politicians. We are talking to voters at the ward level on a weekly basis.”
If 87% of Kenyans still be believe that voting will take place electronically one can only guess at what other misinformation is floating around. And this is before one even factors in that the in the next election we will be voting for the president, the entire Senate, 290 members of National Assembly women’s representatives. At the same time we will be voting in new county level governments and this will all happen in one day. The ballot papers are likely to be quite complex, and the need for civic and voter education far greater than usual. So why leave it so late?
Could this have something to do with the fact that only 121 million shillings of the current budget was allocated to the IEBC for voter education? Or maybe voter education has not been that much of a priority.
Donors did contribute 1.5 billion shillings but the governments allocation for voter education in what is the first of a very complicated election is somewhat telling of where in the list priorities the government holds voter education.