Most Kenyans still do not understand how the ‘new’ bicameral legislature works or how and what to hold their leaders accountable for at county and national level. So who is to blame?
According to the Institute for Education in Democracy, voter education is the responsibility of the government and the civil society.
“The key challenge in this electoral cycle has been the availability of funding and time to implement VE activities,” IED head of communications Elayne Okaya said.
“Donor budgets have dwindled significantly, sometimes by more than 50 per cent. This, of course, has a trickle-down effect on how much can be done to educate voters on electoral processes, the role of the legislature and their leaders.”
To yield any gainful results, she said, requires long-term voter education, running for an entire five years.
Okaya said the IEBC has made valiant efforts under the circumstances, but voter education has been scant where it is most needed.
“Their voter educators are deployed in every ward but in most cases, they have been unable to hold VE activities independently. They have been forced to piggy-back on community activities such as barazas and civil society events to facilitate the dissemination of their messaging,” she said.
Okaya said recent changes to electoral laws have brought a new demographic of voters — prisoners. This requires a special and comprehensive initiative, particularly by the IEBC, to take voter and civic education to prisons (if this has happened, our observers are not aware of it, she said).
“This is critical. If prisoners are to come into the electorate fold, they should still be able to make informed decisions and without duress,” she said. She urged all players to take the difficulties faced as a lessons learnt and called for a start of voter education for 2020.
IEBC voter education and partnership director Rasi Masudi said the commission has been conducting voter education but on a low scale, which is why it might have escaped media and public attention.
However, starting next week, they will roll out massive voter education campaigns targeting both urban and rural voters as the country edges closer to the elections.
“We couldn’t mount these campaigns early as it was expected because the electoral laws have kept on changing. For instance at the moment, we can’t produce voter education on technology because it keeps mutating. The reason there have been delays is because we want to be certain that all issues around laws and processes are thrashed out,” he said.
Masudi said already, they have media strategies that will use infomercials in print media, radio and TV documentaries, talk shows, and social media engagement. These will be rolled out starting next week to educate the public on elective seats and their mandates, the technology to be used, voting processes and post-voting activities.
He said they have deployed 3,237 voter educators around the country (2,900 one in each ward, 290 for constituencies and 47 at counties).“Together with another over 200 accredited voter education partners or providers, we are going to use various community forums, chief barazas and even parents’ meetings to conduct voter education,” he said.
He said education on voter registration, verifications and party primary-nominations (in which they didn’t fully participate) had ended. The next phase will include education on date of election and what a voter is expected to carry to the polling station.
“We will be telling voters to carry either the ID or passport that was used to register as voters, and we no longer need a voter’s card or an acknowledgement script,” he said.
Then voters will be taught on elective positions, agreed technology on voter identification and result transmission. Towards the end of the voter education period, we will concentrate on ballot education.
“We will be doing trials and demos on how to mark the ballots and explain what goes on after the closure of polling stations, to try and demystify past mysteries that have surrounded tallying of results,” he said.
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