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State, IEBC must avert apathy in 2022 polls

EDITORIAL
By Godfrey Ombogo | October 25th 2021

An IEBC clerk waits to register new voters at Kisii County Commissioner's headquarters, October 5, 2021. [Sammy Omingo, Standard]

For the last three weeks since the mass voter registration began, only 800,462 new voters have been enlisted, according to a report released by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission yesterday. 

The IEBC had targeted to enlist at least 4.5 million new voters by the end of week three and a total of six million voters by next week Tuesday when the month-long exercise comes to an end. This means the electoral body has attained a paltry 13 per cent of the target.

This low turnout is worrying, coming only less than a year to the General Election. This trend signals the voter apathy that is likely to greet next year’s elections, thereby threatening the chances of electing competent leaders deserving of their positions.

But what is causing this low voter turnout, one may ask? First, IEBC has attributed the low numbers to insecurity in places like Lamu, Baringo and Laikipia counties as well as along the Kenya-Somalia border.

This is a direct appeal to the security agencies to boost security in these places, not just for voter registration, but also for general peace and safety of the residents.

Nothing good comes out chaos, and these places, apart from recording low numbers in the voter register, will always lag behind in terms of development.

Security of the nation is one of the key responsibilities of any State, and the government cannot take this for granted. One may ask, what became of the security operation in Laikipia that started last month?

Secondly, the electoral agency also attributed the low numbers to apathy. This could have been caused by inadequate voter education, so much so that some Kenyans can dare ask what they get in return if they register.

The State, therefore, needs to adequately fund IEBC to conduct a comprehensive voter education.

It is through such education that voters will know that whether they vote or not, they contribute to the kind of leadership in their ward, constituency, county and country.

It is also through that education that IEBC will gain the voters’ confidence that it is capable of delivering free, fair and credible elections.

Some people are even asking if there will be another mass registration before the General Election. All these questions would be better answered in comprehensive voter education. The IEBC has not even conducted a media campaign yet the registration is ending. 

Then there is the common conception or misconception that Kenyans are last-minute people, that we somehow are just about to witness long queues in voter registration centres as the listing hits the homestretch.

Even if that were the case, we doubt if the turnout in the remaining one week will push the IEBC to attain even 50 per cent of its six million target. 

We urge Kenyans who are not yet registered and have valid identity cards to enlist in the remaining one week so that they have the opportunity to elect leaders of their choice once elections are called.

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