Leo L. Lim, right, shows members of the Kenyan IIEC a sample ballot used in the 2010 National and Local Elections, the first ever nationwide automated elections held in the Philippines. V. Fidel Guidote
Following the outbreak of election-related violence in early 2008, Kenya began a long process of political and electoral reform that included replacing its 1963 post-independence constitution. As part of its efforts to implement a transparent, fair and modern political process, the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) turned to another country that recently overhauled its electoral process.
Four IIEC officials travelled to the Philippines to learn about that country’s experience implementing nationwide electronic voting and voter registration systems. From 8 August to 11 August, the group met with members of the Philippines’ Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to discuss the potential successes, challenges and pitfalls that come with adopting elections technology.
The weeklong visit, which was arranged by IFES, included demonstrations of the Philippines’ Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) voting system and Canvassing and Consolidation System. These systems were introduced during the May 2010 national elections to alleviate registration problems, voter fraud and violence that had marred previous elections.
In addition to determining whether similar voting technology could be adopted in Kenya, the IIEC officials sought the Philippine perspective on other electoral topics. This conversation included talk about registration and voting processes for citizens living abroad and campaigns to educate voters on polling information and procedures.
The Kenyan group held discussions with current and former COMELEC officials, met with Philippine civil society groups and participated in a workshop with COMELEC’s Project Management Office covering planning and implementation of voting technology.
The exchange was also beneficial to COMELEC, as IIEC Commissioner Davis Chirchir shared steps the IIEC followed to generate broader confidence in their vote reporting system and build internal capacity. This process included maintaining the system through a gradual implementation of procedures, testing subsequent modifications to the system through a series of bye elections and frequent briefings for political stakeholders.
Kenya’s next presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for December 2012. The 2010 constitution calls for the creation of a new independent management body to oversee elections in the country. Until that body can be fully organized and staffed, the IIEC will carry out preparations for the upcoming polls.