Anger and frustration as IEBC sets up only 3 polling stations in US

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) will set up only three polling stations to serve Kenyans living in the United States in the coming general election.

Kenya’s embassy in Washington, the United Nations mission in New York and the consulate in Los Angeles will be the only polling stations available for Kenyans living in the vast country.

Potential voters living in far off cities will have to first travel to the polling stations to register as voters and then make a second trip for the actual voting process.

Kenyans in the diaspora will vote only for the presidential candidates.

IEBC Chairman Issack Hassan on Friday explained that more polling stations will be rolled out but only in subsequent elections.

"We have to do it gradually. There’s an African proverb that says ‘don’t try to judge the depth of the river with both feet,’" he said.

Kenyans living far from the three polling stations have criticised the decision, arguing that the cost of travel and time involved in the two trips will effectively disenfranchise thousands of Kenyans.

Kenya’s UN Ambassador Macharia Kamau defended decision in a meeting with Kenyans near UN headquarters in Manhattan.

"We’re not in a position to go into every nook and cranny in America," Ambassador Kamau said, noting that the government has allocated $3 million for diaspora voting.

He reinforced Mr Hassan’s position that the March election should be seen as a first step in allowing Kenyans abroad to take part in the country’s elections.

Internet voting had been proposed as an option, Mr Hassan acknowledged, but he pointed to worries by international election experts that an electronic balloting system is vulnerable to hacking.

One of the Kenyans attending the session on Friday raised concern during the question period about safeguards for vote counting in polling stations abroad.

Mr Hassan assured that the process will be both secure and transparent.
He noted that Kenyans at home will be given six ballot papers, which will likely lead to confusion and long lines.

"We need to conduct a lot of voter education," he said. Conversely, he added, "Elections are too important to be left just to the IEBC. We need help from all Kenyans."

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