3 August 2017

Kenya: IEBC Conducts Polls Transmission and Tallying Trial

Photo: Francis Nderitu/The Nation
Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati addressing the media on August 2, 2017.

The system to be used in identifying voters and sending results was successfully tested on Wednesday as the election commission demonstrated the steps it has taken to protect votes from hacking.

IEBC demonstrated its Kenya Integrated Elections Management Systems (KIEMS) - which will be used for biometric identification of voters and electronic results transmission - and said it had sealed all loopholes which could be used to breach it.

This was made public during a test of the electronic results transmission system from the 47 counties in an exercise that included live links of the process in Nakuru, Kisumu and Mombasa.

"On Tuesday, when Kenyans vote, results will be coming live from all the 40,883 polling stations and displayed concurrently at Bomas, and the other 337 tallying centres with no human intervention," IEBC chief executive Ezra Chiloba said.

POLLING STATIONS

He told the media: "For you, that means you can choose to be at Bomas, in your office or anywhere else and still have full access to all the results from all the polling stations."

The Court of Appeal last month ruled that IEBC cannot change results as declared at polling stations.

This means that when presidential election results, which will be counted first before the five other elective seats, are declared at any of the polling stations in Kenya, Kenyans will have real time access and can tally for themselves as counting progresses.

This, the commission believes, will be the first safeguard against what is usually a long wait for the polling station results to trickle into constituencies, be tallied, read at the national tallying centre, before a final result emerges.

Further, the commission has made it mandatory for the transmitted results to be accompanied by the scanned results declaration forms that must be signed by all agents at the polling station.

The kit has been configured not to allow the "submit button" to work until the form, and the individual results for all candidates, have been keyed in.

Even then, the IEBC has put another safeguard.

SCANNED DOCUMENT

"The primary document, and what we will use as final result, is the scanned document.

If the results in the scanned document is different from the alpha-numeric data, the ones in the scanned document prevails," IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati said of the results.

Every three hours, the KIEMS kits will automatically provide periodic updates to a central, secret server, and whose final tally must match those of the submitted results.

Any discrepancy will be rejected and will not be transmitted.

Similarly, the IEBC has also made all its 360,000 temporary staff, who will act as polling clerks and presiding officers- and who were all sworn in yesterday, to send three-hour updates of the ballots handed out, which must also match with those identified by the kits, and the final result.

Their work will make-or-break the elections as theirs will be the first and final result, right at the polling station.

In an election that has largely hinged on the success of the KIEMS, the successful test run was a major relief for the IEBC.

Those present on Wednesday were shown live from the stations successful transmission of mock results from Nakuru, Mombasa, and Kisumu counties tallying centres, while the other counties streamed in live after the first three.

MISTAKES

Wednesday's exercise is part of the IEBC's attempts to beat its mistakes in 2013, where though the results transmission kits worked for some time, they crashed on Day Two and after they had inexplicably multiplied rejected votes by eight.

The commission has partnered with Safaricom, Airtel, and Telkom Kenya and zoned the country into three depending on each of the three mobile service provider's strengths to ensure maximum capability of the kits to transmit the results.

The Communication Authority of Kenya has also been enjoined to ensure "quality and secure network" for the IEBC, as well as manage use of satellite technology.

The IEBC has provided satellite technology in all its 338 tallying centres, 290 at constituency level, 47 county and the National one at Bomas.

"The IEBC has provided its own independent equipment and servers, on both ends of the transmission process. The IEBC remains wholly responsible and in charge of operationalisation and security of its equipment during this time," said Mr Chebukati in a joint statement.

TRANSMIT RESULTS

Mr Chebukati said that the IEBC will not transmit results of 33 electoral areas using the KIEMS system, after late delivery of court judgments that he said came after the candidates list had been generated.

The kit also transmits results of candidates in the system.

Meanwhile, the commission, he said, will reprint ballot papers for Kirinyaga senate, Embu governorship, and East Asembo ward due to court rulings, saying, however, that they will be ready before Tuesday.

At the Bomas event, the IEBC observed a two one-minute moment of silence for its murdered employee, Chris Msando.

Mr Msando, who was the head of data and infrastructure at IEBC, was murdered on Saturday by unknown people.

POSTPONED

Wednesday's test was supposed to be on Monday but was postponed after the discovery of his body at City Mortuary.

"We are ready to give Kenyans a free, fair and credible election," a confident Mr Chebukati said in his opening remarks.

In Mombasa, County deputy returning officer Amina Soud confirmed the tests were 100 per cent successful at Bandari College, Mombasa.

"We have submitted the specimen results and it was 100 per cent successful," she said.

In Kisumu, County returning officer John Cox Lorionokou was confident that the county is well prepared to manage the General Election next Tuesday.

--Additional reports by Victor Rabala, Abigael Ruto and Hilda Anyango

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