Why it takes time to declare presidential election results

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Running results for Kenya's presidential elections appear on a giant screen at the national tally centre on August 9, 2017 in Nairobi as final results for Kenya's presidential elections are anticipated. PHOTO | TONY KARUMBA | AFP

By Daily Nation

NAIROBI – Some Kenyans have been asking: Why does it take long between the time presidential election results are streamed on television and when Form 34As are made available to confirm the results as official?

The answer lies in the process that the law and the electoral commission have put in place to ensure that the results announced at the polling station are both credible and the same as those relayed to the national tallying centre.

Election officials must start counting the ballots for the presidential election the minute voting closes.

This, in itself, is a long process. First, the ballots must be unfolded and laid upside down to ensure that all of them are stamped as required.

Any that is not stamped is considered a spoilt ballot. So is any ballot that is not meant for the presidential election if a voter put it there by mistake.

Once they are unfolded, the ballots are then separated according to the candidates, with those belonging to one candidate being put in the same pile.

Only after this has been done can the counting begin. This year, every polling station had a maximum of 700 voters, so the votes cast and counted ought not to exceed this number.

After the counting is done, the numbers must be entered in Form 34A which the Presiding Officer (PO) and party agents must sign to confirm that the information is correct.

A photo of the form is then taken and immediately sent to both the constituency tallying centre as well as the national tallying centre at Bomas of Kenya in Nairobi.

This is done simultaneously to ensure that the form sent to the constituency tallying centre is the same as that sent to Bomas.

Election officials can take a break once they are done with counting the presidential ballots, but they must soon be back to start the process for the other five elective seats.

WESTLANDS

A typical constituency like Westlands in Nairobi has 290 polling centres. In turn, each polling centre has ballots for more than a dozen candidates.

Take the New Kihumbuini Primary School polling station. It had eight candidates for president, four for governor, five for senator, eight for MP eight for Woman Rep and eight for MCAs.

That means it had to generate 40 results in total, not counting spoilt ballots, disputed and rejected votes.

Just like with the presidential votes, the results for every electoral seat must be sent to both the constituency and national tallying centres.

Only then can the Presiding Officer and his or her deputy make their way to the constituency tallying centre.

They must carry all the ballot boxes as well as the official results as signed by the electoral officials and party agents.

SEALED BOXES

This must be carried in sealed boxes to ensure that they are not tampered with on the way.

In the case of Westlands, the tallying centre was at the Kenya Technical Training College (KTTC) in Gigiri.

The first Presiding Officers to arrive there on Tuesday, made their entry at around 6am.

However, it took several hours before the returning officer had set up the system that would eventually allow the Presiding Officers to submit their results.

Some of the early birds were yet to submit their results by 1pm.

Gertrude Menge, a Deputy Presiding Officer at New Kihumbuini was among the last to arrive, at about 1pm.

PRESIDING OFFICERS

By 4pm, however, she was yet to be called. Only about 70 Presiding Officers had submitted their results.

As at 5pm, there were about 200 to go. That means the IEBC could not declare the official results for Westlands Constituency unless all the 200 in the line had presented.

And the routine is simple. Once the results are presented, they have to be read out aloud. Each Presiding Officer presents results for all the six seats.

By implication, the Presiding Officer for New Kihumbuini announced 40 results including for the spoilt ballots and disputed votes.

Assuming that is the average for every polling station, the tallying centre will receive 11,600 (40×290) results.

All these must be read out and recorded manually before they can be tallied. Only then can the Constituency Returning Officer announce the final results.

DECLARE WINNER

However, voters already know that Mr Tim Wanyonyi of ODM was poised to win the contest on account of the results transmitted electronically.

However, he cannot be declared the winner just yet. All the Form 34As must be in before that can happen.

Like the other Presiding Officers waiting their turn at KTTC, Ms Menge has been at it for the last three days.

She was working on Monday to prepare for the election. She worked on Tuesday to facilitate the voting. And she was working yesterday to ensure that her results were tallied.

“I have neither eaten nor slept properly in the last three days,” she said. “In fact, I have not freshened up properly.”

SUBMIT RESULTS

As many like her wait in line for their turn to submit their results, they cannot help but fall asleep on the floor.

They cannot afford to leave the tallying centre lest their stations are called out.

Many of the presiding officers are women and some of them are living with disability.

It is not easy for them to haul the boxes along the winding queues until it is their turn to present their results.

Kenya has 290 constituency. Each has to go through the same motions as Westlands.

That is why it will be a while before the final results of the presidential election can be announced and a winner declared.

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