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In Kenya, Most Registered Voters Lack Required Voting Card

In Kenya, Most Registered Voters Lack Required Voting Card

Majority confident the electoral body can manage the coming elections

by Bob Tortora and Magali Rheault

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The vast majority of registered voters in Kenya do not have the voting card they need to be able to participate in the country's next presidential election, scheduled for March 4, 2013, according to a July 26-Aug. 17, 2012, Gallup survey.

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Kenya's electoral body, the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) requires that to cast a ballot, Kenyans must show the new ID cards, which are necessary to get the new voter cards. According to the IEBC, the old ID cards and the former voting cards are invalid to vote in the upcoming election. This reveals that most who think they are properly registered are not, highlighting confusion about new voting rules.

Overall, 74% of all Kenyans aged 18 and older say they are registered to vote. While women and men are as likely to be registered to vote and there are no differences by educational level, young Kenyans are far less likely than their older counterparts to say they are registered to vote. Kenyans between the ages of 18 and 22 -- who were too young to vote in the last presidential election -- are far less likely than those who are older to say they are registered to vote. This finding suggests that this group of potential voters may either not be interested in participating in the election or face obstacles in registering to vote and perhaps voting.

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Most Kenyans Say It Is Easy to Register to Vote, but Documents Are a Barrier for Some

The IEBC will use several new technologies, including electronic voter registration, to ensure the elections are transparent, free, and fair. But there is controversy about the tender process to obtain the equipment and the logistics of implementing these solutions before the election. Current registered voters in Kenya are slightly more likely than those who have yet to register to say the current process to register to vote is easy, but the majority of both groups see the process as easy.

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Among those who are not currently registered to vote, a majority say they plan to do so soon. However, more than one in five say they are not registered voters yet because they do not have the proper documentation. To register, Kenyans must be 18 years old or older, meet specific residency requirements, and have the most current version of the national ID card. While 93% of all Kenyan adults say they have an ID card, those aged 18 to 22 are the least likely to say so -- 79% compared with more than 95% in the other age groups.

In addition, 8% of currently unregistered voters say the main reason why they are not registered is that they do not want to do so. Other reasons include the perceived distance to the registration center, with 5% of Kenyan adults thinking it is too far away from their home, lack of knowledge about the registration process (4%), and the perception that it is too late to do so (1%).

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Most Kenyans Confident in the Electoral Commission

In the wake of the post-election violence that engulfed Kenya in 2008, confidence in the then-electoral commission had plunged to 24% from a high of 62% the previous year -- as reports of electoral mismanagement became known. The IEBC, which came into effect after Kenyans approved a new constitution in 2010, is responsible for running the elections, from voter registration to the announcement of the results. As such, the institution lies at the heart of ensuring free and fair elections in the country.

At the time of the Gallup survey, more than nine in 10 Kenyans aged 18 and older said they were confident the IEBC could manage the entire electoral process in Kenya, with 50% saying they were "very confident" and 42% "somewhat confident."

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Bottom Line

In light of the ongoing controversy in Kenya about electronic voter registration, the Gallup findings underscore the need for greater voter education. In addition, the results suggest much remains to be done to ensure Kenyans are able to obtain the documents they need to exercise their civic duty. As most adults say they are currently registered to vote, they may believe their registration under the previous system will enable them to get a voting card and cast their ballot on March 4.

Further, Kenyans who stand to vote for the first time in their lives, those aged 18 to 22, appear to face a serious obstacle because they are the least likely among all age groups to say they have an ID card. Overall, while Kenyans appear to be confident in the electoral body to manage the entire process, the IEBC's actual execution of each step will be vital to anchoring public confidence that Kenya can have free and fair elections.

About This Series

This article is the first in a series on Kenyans' attitudes toward their country's March 2013 election and Kenya's future. Key topics will address Kenyans' views of the election process, presidential candidates, the judicial system, the International Criminal Court proceedings, and perceptions of peace and security, highlighting the most pertinent results from Gallup surveys, which are funded by the East Africa Index.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.

Survey Methods

Results are based on face-to-face interviews with 2,400 adults, aged 18 and older, conducted July 26-Aug. 17, 2012, in Kenya. The margin of error varies by individual question and reflects the use of stratification and clustering of the sample. The margin of error (the 95% confidence interval) for the percentage of Kenyans who say they are confident the IEBC can manage the entire election process is ±3.3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.

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