25 February 2013

Kenya: Low Turnout Mars Mock Election

Hundreds of Kenyans across the country participated in a mock election process aimed at demonstrating the voting process to the public ahead of the ... ( Resource: Kenya Conducts Mock Elections )

Low voter turnout marked yesterday's mock elections organised by the IEBC as a test run before the General Election.

Voting centres however had the necessary voting material by 6 am and the staff were ready at the 1,450 polling centers across the country earmarked for the trial run. The IEBC officials attributed the low turn out to people having to attend church before going for the exercise.

The trial run was aimed at educating Kenyans on how they will vote come Monday, March 4 and also to test the data transmission system. It was also expected to give the IEBC an indication as to how long each voter was likely to take in the polling booth.

A select number of voters from each of the targeted polling stations were expected to show up and go through the exercise. They each had to mark the ballots for the president, running mate, governor and running mate, senator, MP, women county representative and county assembly representative.

In most of the stations, majority of those who turned up expressed concern over the length of time it was taking them to cast their votes. They complained of "confusing ballot papers and ballot boxes colors."

"Picking, and marking the ballot papers and later casting the votes took me around 20 minutes. I fear on the material day that taking that long for one person to cast a vote will give IEBC logistical nightmares. They should look for ways voters can be taken through the process faster, at maximum it should not be more than two minutes," said Fredrick Ochieng Owino a voter in Sarang'ombe ward, who participated in the mock exercise at Olympic Primary school.

In Makueni County, polling clerks were idle for the better part of the day with the constituency's IEBC coordinator Catherine Githinji attributing the low voter turn-out due to confusion caused by the rescheduling of the exercise by the commission.

She said many voters knew the mock election would be carried out on February 28 adding that rescheduling it to yesterday affected the whole exercise in the region. In Central Rift, the exercise was conducted in 115 polling stations spread across the region.

The stations are among the 2,353 polling stations in Nakuru, Laikipia, Baringo and Samburu counties constituting the Central Rift where elections will be held.

Central Rift IEBC coordinator Ali Mohammed Ibrahim said the exercise went on well without many hitches except for the low turnout. In Murang'a County, there was confusion after the commission shifted the polling centres.

The centers-- many of them social halls and church compounds-- were being used for church services yesterday forcing the commission to shift the exercise to other polling stations.

In Kiharu constituency, the commission had to change the venue from Murang'a social hall which is one of the registered centres to Vidhu Ramji primary school. The hall had already been occupied by worshipers of the Light of Life Restoration Ministry.

The county returning officer Zachary Gichohi said the constituency returning officer changed the venue to avoid colliding with the church services.

In Narok County, most of the polling stations opened after 8 o'clock in all the six constituencies of the region with low turnout being the order of the day. Several voters, who were interviewed by The Star, said they were not aware of the exercise.

Low voter turnout was also experienced in Kisii County despite the polling stations opening doors as earlier as 6 am.

Nyaribari Chache returning officer Robert Ngeny said the exercise started well in many stations. However voting at Amariba was delayed until 11 am because they lacked a finger scanner. Ngeny regretted the absence of the scanner and said the matter was rectified.

In Kisumu, those participating in the exercise expressed confusion as to which ballot box they should place their ballots for the different candidates. In the election proper, ballots that are placed in the wrong ballot box will not be counted.

Some voters were also disappointed when they found names of their preferred candidates were not on the ballot papers. The IEBC had used 'mock names' bearing the different parties for the exercise.

Presiding officer, George Atito assured voters that they would find the name of their preferred candidates on March 4. He explained that the relevance of using dummy names on the ballots was to help the commission anticipate some of the problems that might arise.

Yesterday, the commission was still compiling the data submitted following the 'mock election' and said it would analyze the same before addressing a press briefing later today.

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