‘Youth protest’ mars enlisting of new voters ahead of polls
Candidates for various seats in the August 9 General Election could be forced back to the drawing board if they are banking on the youth vote.
This is after the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) managed to register a paltry 1,031,645 new voters against a target of more than 4.5 million in the just concluded Enhanced Continuous Voter Registration (ECVR), reflecting youth apathy in the coming election.
Sources within IEBC and the government confided to People Daily that the low turnout in voter registration could be a “sign of protest by the youth generation against the authorities”.
“There is so much anger and despair among the youth that they don’t think anything positive would result from the General Election. It is a clear indication that the youth have given up on the government and most of the leaders who have so far declared interest for the various seats,” said a source at the Ministry of Interior.
Multiple sources within government intimated that despite IEBC having used all sorts of mechanisms, including instructing registration officers to move around the estates, bars and churches, the number of youth seeking registration did not increase “because the youngsters don’t believe the elections will change their lives in any significant way”.
The Wafula Chebukati-led commission said it had targeted to register at least six million new voters based on the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) population census of 2019.
According to the National Bureau of Registration, 5,546,404 Kenyans received new identity cards between January 2017 and November 2021, out of which one million were renewals.
This means that 4.5 million new Identity cardholders were eligible for registration as voters, but going by the figures released, shows that more than 3.5 million youths have not registered as voters.
In the first Enhanced Continuous Voter Registration (ECVR) only 1.1million were registered against a target of six million new voters.
“During the ECVR Phase II exercise, the commission enrolled a total of 1,031,645 new voters. Further, a total of 396,163 registered voters applied to transfer registration status to registration centres of their choice, while 2,269 changed their particulars,” said Chebukati in a statement to newsrooms.
The IEBC boss further announced that the commission would subject the new voters’ records to a deduplication process that involves comparing their biometric data with that in the register for purposes of identification and removal of multiple registrations before uploading into the Register of Voters.
According to the polls body, they will engage a professional reputable firm to conduct an audit of the Register of Voters for purposes of verifying its accuracy and recommend mechanisms for its enhancement at least four months before the General Election.
“The firm shall undertake the audit within 30 days on engagement, and the commission shall thereafter implement the audit report,” said Chebukati.
The electoral agency boss explained that the verification process is to allow registered voters to verify their registration particulars and to correct any errors or omissions relating to their registration particulars, adding that the exercise will ensure the commission maintains a complete, accurate, updated and comprehensive register of voters.
In the just-concluded mass voter registration, Nairobi County is leading with 101,426, new voters followed by Kiambu at 52,576, Kakamega (39,587), Nakuru (38,685), Uasin Gishu (34,735), Kisumu (32,995) and Kisii (35,091).
Counties with the lowest numbers include Lamu 3,608, Isiolo 4,583, Samburu 5,938, Marsabit (6,679), Tharaka Nithi (7,819), Taita Taveta (9,535), Mandera (9,670), Nyandarua (10,975) and West Pokot (10,121).
An insider at the electoral agency confided that voter apathy among the youth could be attributed to high unemployment levels, high cost of living and unfulfilled government promises such as the provision of laptops, construction of new stadiums and enabling a 24-hour economy, among others.
Prof Kaburu Kinoti, a statistician argues that going by IEBC’s latest figures, the youth are not as enthusiastic about exercising their right to vote because they feel the government is not working for them.
Kinoti, the party leader of the Party for Peace and Democracy, further argued that the new voter registration outcome does not favour the two leading presidential contenders.
“The young generation is not enthusiastic about voting because they don’t feel that the government is working for them. The winner of the 2022 presidential election will have to garner at least eight million votes if voter turnout will be at 80 per cent,” said Kinoti.
“By abstaining from registering as voters, the youth are sending a clear message to the political class and the government …that they are not ready to be used as ladders by people who hardly fulfil their promises,” Prof Kinoti says.
The electoral agency has also been enlisting new voters in the United States of America, United Kingdom, Qatar, Germany, United Arab Emirates, Canada, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan.
“The voter registration exercise for citizens residing outside the country (Diaspora) has so far enrolled 2,959 new voters, as well as 2,964 requests for transfer and 2,036 applications for change of particulars,” said Chebukati.
The commission, guided by the relevant law, plans to certify and publish the Register of Voters for the 2022 General Election by June.
Pursuant to Article 88(4) (a) and (b) of the Constitution, the commission has resumed the constituency office-based Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) and Revision of the Voter’s Roll upon conclusion of the ECVR Phase II.
This will run until such a time the commission will publish a gazette notice suspending the CVR exercise to pave the way for Biometric Verification of the Register of Voters as required by law. The CVR includes new registration, transfer of registration status, change of particulars and deletion of dead voters.