ODM chief moves to shore up voter numbers in strongholds

Tuesday, September 21st, 2021 00:00 | By
IEBC officials register voters during a past listing exercise. PHOTO/Courtesy

Kepher Otieno

 The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has rolled out an aggressive campaign to mop up its supporters to register as voters.

This follows an alarm that thousands of young people have not enlisted as voters in party leader Raila Odinga’s  strongholds.

Raila, two weeks ago, told a gathering in Siaya County that there was no need for him to contest the presidency if residents of his Nyanza backyard did not register as voters.

The office of the Registrar of Persons says thousands of identity cards remain uncollected in many parts of Nyanza.

There is also concern that a large number of adults do not have the vital document.

According to the Registrar, 22,815 people aged above 18 years in Nyanza have no identity cards.

Kisumu County leads the list with 4,948 followed by Siaya (4,334), Homa Bay (3,829), Kisii (3,579), Migori (3,508) and Nyamira, which has 2,617.

The Orange party embarked on the drive following a similar exercise by Deputy President William Ruto’s United Democratic Alliance (UDA) in the Rift Valley, Ukambani, Nyanza, Central Kenya and in the Coast.

Officials summoned

Raila, on Thursday, summoned County ODM coordinators countrywide for a meeting in Nairobi to discuss the upcoming enhanced voter registration.

ODM Secretary General Edwin Sifuna said the party is concerned by the big number of youths who had not obtained ID cards ahead of a mass registration campaign by the national elections agency starting next month.

“We summoned party branch officials to come up with fresh strategies to launch massive voter listing ahead of 2022 polls and craft a winning strategy,’’ he said.

Sifuna said Raila had given instructions that emphasis be given to enlisting of young people. According to coordinators, who attended the meeting, each region would be given a target.

Kisumu County ODM coordinator Prof Ayiecho Olweny and his Migori counterpart Philip Makabongo confirmed they were tasked to mobilise supporters at the grassroots.

“From now we will tell our people everywhere we go especially the young ones without IDs to register,’’ said Makabongo.

Focus will be placed on the nearly 4 million young Kenyans aged 16, according to the August 2019 census report, who will have reached voting age by next year.

Voter apathy 

The party leaders noted that there are more than 70,000 IDs that lie uncollected in the Nyanza region.

Kasipul-Kabondo MP Eve Obara said that there are more than 6,000 uncollected IDs in her constituency.

Siaya County Registrar of Persons Dickson Osore said more than 3,000 IDs are uncollected in about 19 centres and asked the owners to go for the documents.

In Kisumu County, they target to win at least 130,000 new registered voters who are yet to get ID cards.

Voter apathy in Raila’s strongholds has consistently been blamed for his performance during elections compared the huge turnouts in areas dominated by his opponents, especially Central Kenya, Nairobi and Rift Valley.

For instance, records by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries commission (IEBC) show Kisumu had 539,593 registered voters in the 2017 General Election but more than 100,000 did not show up to vote.

“The question is, if Kisumu census population is 1,150,000, eligible voters 696,792, new voters, not registered 163,000, then where are the rest?’’ posed George Abwajo, a statistician.

According to Abwajo, going by the statistics, nearly 33,000 people may have moved out of the county for one reason or another while some may have died. 

Former Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo said 43,000 voters in Siaya County did not cast their ballots in 2013 and 79,000 in the 2017 General Election.

“They attend rallies in big numbers but don’t vote. Party officials must take action now and reverse the trend,” said Gumbo.

New voting bloc

According to ODM deputy leader and Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya the new voting bloc will be a major battle ground in the recruitment drive.

In Kakamega, he said, they target to enlist at least a million new voters.

In Kisumu county, they expect to enlist at least 130,000 new voters, which IEBC records showed had not registered.

Oparanya says the party will convene a meeting of governors from the Lake Region Economic Bloc to launch and spearhead the drive across Nyanza and Western which have been major culprits of voter apathy.

“Persuading voters is the essence of a political campaign and so it behooves us as a party and all members to launch a massive recruitment drive,’’ he explained.

 “We are going to roll out a mass recruitment drive of new potential voters. So far our membership drive ends this month.

 “We have valid statistics from IEBC which has shown us the existing number of potential voters in each county, that we’re yet to formally register.’’ 

According to Oparanya, they will conduct the drive alongside the IEBC, which has announced that it will begin mass registration of voters next month.

The party will also conduct voter education to reduce the number of spoilt votes during election.

Already, IEBC has announced that it will hire 9,570 temporarily clerks for the countrywide voter registration exercise.

According to the commission, it will target four million new voters who were not eligible to vote during the 2017 General Election.

The agency has asked the youth to register as citizens ahead of the exercise.

“This is why we have resorted to work with grassroots leaders to mop up the youth who do not have ID cards, to go for it and register for elections,’’ said the commission in August 24 while giving a status report.

More on News