CIO East Africa (Nairobi)

Kenya: IT Issues Leave Kenya Presidential Election Results Halfway Pending

Photo: Bradley Austin/IFES
The delay in announcing election results has been caused by large voter turn-out, according to the electoral commission chairman, Isaack Hassan (file photo).

Issues with electronic vote results transmission have left Kenyans unclear of who is the winner of the presidential poll in more than 24 hours after close of official voting in the 2013 General Elections held Monday.

Voting in stations that began voting past 6 AM was extended by the same margin of delay, while other stations also extended voting past 5 PM to accommodate those in the queue in accordance to Kenyan laws. By midnight Tuesday, only presidential results from about 10,000 polling stations of a total of about 33,400 stations had been received. The results remained largely unchanged through Tuesday leading to anxiety among Kenyans.

Early provisional results showed the two leading candidates being close, with Uhuru Kenyatta gaining 2,771,097 votes against Raila Odinga's 2,179,833 in the 5,188,355 votes received by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) by end of Tuesday. Through most of the day, the two had maintained a gap of about 600,000 votes. For one to be declared a winner, they must garner 50 percent of the popular vote plus one additional vote for a simple majority, and 25 percent of the votes cast in 24 of 47 counties.

Failure to come up with a winner based on the criteria will see the top two contestants battling it in a run off on April 11th, 2013.

Provisional results posted on http://wenyenchi.co.ke/mobile/prezresults.html via the IEBC API(Application Programming Interface which allows developers to access real time results from IEBC servers) show that Kenyatta had 48.17 percent of the popular vote against Odinga's 37.89 percent. This was after the percentages were adjusted to include 330,760 rejected(spoilt) votes and 264 disputed votes in the total percentage of votes. By Tuesday midnight, without inclusion of rejected votes, Kenyatta's percentage stood at 53.4 percent versus Odinga's 42.01 percent.

Kenya has 14.3 million registered voters for the 2013 general elections. A projected 70 percent turnout should lead to about 10 million cast votes.

Provisional results from the polls started coming in early Monday evening, though the night and Tuesday morning. A stall in transmission of results through most of Tuesday is being blamed on the failure on an electronic vote results transmission system, which has seen IEBC officers from most of the polling stations not being able to submit provisional results. It is not clear at what exact point the transmission system failed.

IEBC chairperson Isaack Hassan has promised to give results in the next 48 hours on Tuesday evening, though the commission is allowed to give final results seven days after voting. The commission further clarifies provisional results are not final, with presiding officers required to physically present final results at the national tallying station in Nairobi.

In addition, there were also reported delays in constituencies submitting their manual results to county tallying centres. The county tallying centres collect all results from constituencies in a county, which then transmit the same to the national tallying centre, currently stationed at the Bomas of Kenya.

Safaricom, Kenya's largest mobile network operator have absolved themselves from the delay, stating they are only involved in transmission of results from Nokia handsets in use by IEBC presiding officers to the national tallying centre. This, they said, was still functioning.

In a series of posts on Twitter, Safaricom CEO, Bob Collymore tweeted "We do have adequate capacity and our network is fully functioning. The problem is not with us." He also responded to Tweets, '"@henryegesa: @skmusyoka@bobcollymore is it the network that is causing the delay of results reaching the IEBC?" No.' and ' "@leadershipkenya: @bobcollymore, hope its not Safaricom Network holding the results!"My team & I were up all nite to make sure it doesn't .'

Google have also clarified their role as limited to the provision of an Application Programming Interface (API) which enables developers and media stations to obtain a live relay of the results from IEBC servers. In addition, Google is also allowing Internet users to access provisional results on the vote.iebc.or.ke domain.

In a response to Erik Hersman, iHub founder and Ushahidi co-founder, Dorothy Ooko - Google Communications Manager for East and Francophone Africa, tweeted "The IEBC website http://www.vote.iebc.or.ke is powered by Google as are the maps."

Ushahidi is behind the Uchaguzi platform which is using crowd sourcing to monitor the 2013 Kenya General Elections at uchaguzi.co.ke. Hersman has also researched on the technology suppliers behind the electronic vote results transmission, listing Safaricom, Next Technologies and Google. In his blog post, Hersman lists Next Technologies as being behind the managing and hosting of servers which receive and hold the vote result data. You can read Hersman's blog on the same at http://iebctechkenya.tumblr.com/

The electronic vote results transmission is reported to have presented major technical issues at an earlier demonstration as reported by The Star http://www.the-star.co.ke/news/article-108148/iebc-must-fix-results-transmission-system-fast

Additionally, electronic voter identification kits (EVID) saw a more than 50 percent failure rate during voting on Monday, with issues ranging from non functional kits to drained batteries. The failure delayed start of voting and interrupted the same at various stations. Manual poll books were used as fall back.

Rejected votes are also presenting an issue, with the current 330,260 rejected votes almost doubling those of the the third placed candidate, Musalia Mudavadi at 148,225 votes. IEBC has hinted at an audit of the cause, with purported reasons being incorrectly marked votes and voters placing ballots in wrong boxes, probably due to unclear colour coding. The current election saw Kenyans voting for twice as many positions with additional ballots for governors, senators and women representative posts.

The 2013 General Elections are Kenya's first after disputed elections in 2007, which led to deaths of more than 1,000 Kenyans in about 2 months of bloodshed. Among the disputes in what was a close election, was the delayed transmission of vote results from the then Juja and Nithi constituencies and a dispute on exceptionally high voter turnouts in some areas. The handling of the elections saw the disbandment of the poll body then, the Electoral Commission of Kenya.

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