Monday, January 7, 2013

Electoral team’s numeracy must be above reproach

By Lukoye Atwoli
Sunday Nation 23 December 2012

Just a day before the voter registration deadline, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) published a tally of the registered voters by December 16, 2012. Insofar as it was intended to spur voters to register in larger numbers before the closing day, it was a great strategy. It energised politicians who only see Kenyans as voting bundles that are counted by tribe or region, and they went all out to beg their perceived supporters to go and register.

However, worrying indicators of the IEBC’s facility with numbers emerged from a quick analysis of the figures presented in the document. No matter the explanation for them, these observations have a serious bearing on the outcome of the next General Election, with the potential of causing major conflict unless they are addressed.

Upon downloading the document from the IEBC website, I decided to do a simple numbers check. I randomly selected a few counties in the Rift Valley where I live, and added up the respective numbers of registered voters and the estimated voting population as presented by the IEBC. I then compared my calculated totals with those in the IEBC document.

The first county in which a discrepancy was immediately apparent was Samburu. The county’s three constituencies had respectively registered a paltry 34pc, 32pc and 17pc of the estimated voting population, and yet the county total was given as 51pc.

Obviously, this was impossible.

Adding up the numbers of expected voters from this county, it turned out that the estimated number of voters was understated by over 90,000. The real total percentage registration performance in Samburu County as at 16th December was therefore about 27pc, among the lowest in the country.

Similarly, although only one constituency out of the six in Uasin Gishu County had registered less than 70pc of the estimated voting population, the county performance was given as 64%. Closer examination revealed that the total estimated voting population was overstated by over 120,000, thus distorting the actual percentage performance in the county. The correct percentage performance for Uasin Gishu County would have been 90pc, rather than the stated 64pc.

In Nandi County, the total estimated voting population was significantly understated, yielding an actual percentage performance of 53pc instead of the IEBC’s 63pc.

The core business of the IEBC, as has been stated many times in the past, is counting voters and votes. If the commission demonstrates even a small degree of human error in the process of counting voters or votes, the confidence of voters in the electoral process is irrevocably eroded. Indeed, it is often argued that the former electoral commission’s failure to accurately count both the voters and the votes played a significant role in the violence after the 2007 elections.

The errors unearthed in this analysis are of such a magnitude that the commission needs to put in place a mechanism to proof-read any tallies they produce before releasing them to the public. Further, it is the expectation of any right-thinking Kenyan that heads ought to roll in the responsible department, in order to demonstrate the seriousness with which the commission takes these kinds of errors.

As far as elections are concerned, Kenyans expect the IEBC to be, like Caesar’s wife, above reproach. Kenyans must be reassured that the IEBC can actually count!; Twitter @LukoyeAtwoli

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