Monday, June 18, 2012



E-Kura System: The most cost-effective and credible tool for Kenya
By Osano Kute

Given the bitter experience Kenyans went through during the 2007 elections, it is the prayer of every citizen that the country should never see that kind of violence again. Elections in Kenya and their conduct have elicited a great of debate regarding their the mode and process that should meet international standards.

This artilcle aims to share the most convenient, cost effective and secure means to domesticate democracy in Kenya.

These thoughts have been informed by comprehensive studies and designs of e-voting systems conducted by young Kenyans to ensure a unique, innovative and cost effective system of participating in a democratic process.

In recent years, the Australian ballot paper system has been considered a great innovation where standardized ballots are printed at government expense, given to voters at polling places, and people are required to vote and return the ballot on the spot.

The ballot paper procedure is now the most widely used system in the world and employs uniform official ballots of various stock weights on which the names of all candidates are printed. Voters record their choices, in private; by marking the box next to the candidate or issue choice they select and drop the voted ballot in a sealed ballot box.

This system has however, been abused by various players as in Kenya and other parts of Africa where ballot papers have been stuffed in ballot boxes in favour of certain preferred candidates by the powers that be.

It is however, worth noting that democracy is more than just elections and votes. It is, understanding the people, their needs and outlining and debating strategies to meet these needs, through campaigning, consulting and convincing the electorate among others. This process takes long and is strenuous to the candidates, the people and the economy of nations. It is therefore important to have the shortest and most cost-effective way of ensuring that democracy prevails in a country.

The IEBC budget and Cost estimates

The IEBC had initially asked for Ksh. 41 Billion to run the elections. Budget items included voter registration kits, finger print recorders and readers, register voters, validate the voter register, print ballot papers, hire security, hire polling clerks, purchase results dissemination kit, operational costs and hire advocates for election petitions.

However, a quick look at the polling stations as presented in the document printed on 03-Oct-2006 by the defunct ECK indicates a total of 14,113 registered polling stations.

The figure of 45,000 polling stations being advanced by the IEBC now, therefore, represents an increase of more than three times the number of polling stations originally used for a Kenyan general election. Of course this figure can easily be used to justify the budget originally presented by IEBC of Ksh. 41 Billion.

How can we make elections cheaper, transparent, faster and secure?

Use of the Internet and other electronic devices for communication has not only become a standard for work but also for people’s private lives. Online voting would enhance democratic procedures, simplify the process, cheaper and increase legitimacy of the vote.

Since an e-voting system asks voters to confirm their choice, there should be no “wrong” or “spoilt” votes. A more important aspect of e-voting is that votes would be counted electronically, significantly decreasing the amount of human error.

Many computer scientists know that it is possible to design an electronic voting system that can sport paper trails that can be verified by the voter and subsequently used in manual recounts. However, according to Prof. Michael Shamos, a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University who teaches an e-voting class, electronic methods of tabulating votes actually tend to be more secure than paper-based ones.

E-voting for Locals and the Diaspora

Having been keen observers of the elections management for a number of organizations in the country and previous National General Elections in particular, in full realisation about the budgetary constraints placed on the way of IEBC and in order to account for every single penny given to IEBC, a group of young Kenyans developed an ideal electronic voting framework with requisite flexibility for selective manual applications, as may be desired.

The Online voter registration and Vote Management System dubbed e-kura, was developed by indigenous young Kenyans who have the technical knowledge and requisite appreciation of the challenges elections have posed in the past.

The e-kura system is an all round cost effective machine. It allows any Kenyan anywhere on earth to register as a voter without physically travelling to the registration centre in one’s constituency. Registration to vote in any Polling Station, Ward, Constituency and County, will therefore be done at any of the IEBC designated registration centres. This will definitely save time and money for the voter.

The system allows the voter to register the party he belongs to (optional) which can then be used by the Registrar of Political Parties to manage compliance with the Political Parties Act.
IEBC can also continuously weed out dead voters from the register so that by the time of voting, only living eligible voters are in the register.

For the Kenyans in the Diaspora, there will be no need to travel long distances to register to vote. They will simply choose their countries of residence from a drop-down menu and provide their credentials, be vetted online by the immigration department and be allowed to participate in elections if eligible. This category of voters will find the e-voting module in e-kura for actual voting very convenient.

The e-kura system has the capability to emulate actual ballots for the President and Deputy, County Governors, Senators, Women Representatives, Member of Parliament and County Representatives all rolled into e-ballot papers and specific to each polling station.

This capability allows for vote tallying and dissemination for each candidate category by: county, constituency, ward and polling station.

The system allows one to vote by selecting the preferred candidate just by pressing a button and confirming his choice.

With e-kura, there will be no spoilt votes as the intention of each voter is captured precisely.
The number of votes counted must also be equal to the number of people cleared to vote in any given station and this gives an extra level of security in validation of the votes cast.

Each voter’s photo will be taken immediately he confirms his choice of candidates and the time and unique number of the machine used recorded. This will ensure that no voter can vote more than once as on attempt to do so, the voter’s photo will be displayed showing the time and place he voted.

The e-kura system will ensure the following:-
• No voter will be able to cast his vote more than once.
• It will display the name, photo, party name and symbols
• e-kura will be used by the Registrar of Political Parties to manage compliance.
• It will allow The Registrar of Persons to authenticate the eligibility voters.
• It is has capability to print the votes cast for the six positions and placed in one
ballot box for any future recount or audit
• Voters will not be able to prove to others how they voted to avoid vote selling.
• No one will be able to trace and determine how any individual voted.

The cost and time savings e-kura will give

• The equipment used for registration is the same one to be used for verification of voters
at the polling stations, actual voting and vote tallying hence no wastage in terms of
funds requirements for the various stages in the election process. This will save more
than 6 Billion on the voter registration kit.
• No need to print ballot papers hence reducing cost associated with ballot paper printing
and reducing the possibility of someone pre-printing ballot papers to be used for vote
rigging by staffing blot boxes.
• No need of spending KShs.4, 000 for purchase of each ballot box hence reducing the cost by
a staggering more than Ksh. 4 Billion.
• The time taken to vote is drastically reduced as each voter will take less than 2 minutes
to vote for the six categories of candidates.
• Voters will not have to travel long distances to register as voters then return to vote.
• Voters in Diaspora will just need to go to the internet, and chose the country of
residence from the drop-down menu and proceed to register and be ready to vote.