High Court extends voter listing deadline to February 16
Nairobians rush to register as voters along Race Course Road on February 14, 2017. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NATION MEDIA GROUP.
By MAUREEN KAKAH
Did you beat the Tuesday voter registration deadline?
If not, the High Court has granted you two more days, until Thursday, to do that.
Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita on Tuesday issued a temporary order suspending the deadline set by the electoral commission in a case filed by activist Okiya Omtata.
“I hereby grant an order to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission not to close the voter registration exercise as scheduled on February 14 but continue with the process until February 16 when this matter will be heard,” said Justice Mwita.
According to Mr Omtata, the decision to terminate the registration of voters five months to the August 8 polls is contrary to the requirement of a section of the Elections Act 2011, which dictates that the same should be done two months to the polls.
“Denying Kenyans three months within which they can register to vote will exclude a large population yet the ballot is the most potent weapon of governance where citizens were have the mandate to elect the country’s political leaders,” said Mr Omtata.
He also argues that the Kenyan electoral history has always involved voter suppression in areas perceived to be unsupportive of the government of the day, and that national identity cards and passports at the whims of the executive.
He claims that in the ongoing voter listing, those hailing from areas perceived to be pro-government have been issued with IDs within two- three days as ordered by President Kenyatta while areas considered to be opposition strongholds have been denied that chance.
“The selective issuance of IDs is discriminatory and, therefore, unconstitutional. Kenyans are protected by the law so they should not be subjected to unnecessary pressure to register before the two-month deadline set by Parliament,” said Mr Omtata.
In the case documents, he alleges that there have been no corresponding drive across the country to ensure eligible Kenyans, especially the youth and those who have just turned age 18, are issued with IDs to enable them register as voters.
He says since those who have just turned 18 do not have IDs, they can be allowed to register as voters with birth certificates since the current national register of voters relies on both biometrics and pictures of individuals to identify voters.
He also faults the manner in which IEBC has been issuing status reports on the state of voter registration in the country, which includes making projections on the number of IDs issued in an area and not on the number of eligible voters.
He alleges that the use of persons holding IDs to make projections and not the size of adult population is fraudulent as it conceals the voter suppression machinations of the executive, hence strips the IEBC its autonomy and vests it in those who issue IDs.
Mr Omtata wants the court to issue an order stopping anyone from directing that the voter registration exercise ends on February 14.
He also wants IEBC, the immigration directorate as well as Registrar of Persons compelled to publish an accurate status report, which includes number of eligible voters in each county, those who have registered, those who have not and those who have not been issued with IDs.
He further wants it declared that birth certificates are valid documents for purposes of registering as voters as an alternative to an ID.