Thursday, 28 February 2013

Expert warns of delays at polling stations

 By Kevin J Kelley in New York  

Posted  Thursday, February 28  2013 at  13:20

The time needed to cast six separate ballots on election day could result in long delays at many polling stations, a US-based expert on Kenya politics warned on Wednesday.Unless the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) effectively addresses this issue, "tempers will flare and violence could follow" among some voters, cautioned Prof Joel Barkan.Prof Barkan said that only eight voters can be processed per hour at a single voting booth going by IEBC's estimate of 7.5 minutes needed for the average voter to complete all six ballots .Accordingly, close to 100 voters could vote in one booth over a 12-hour period, he added.An average polling station has between 450 to 500 voters.Prof Barkan reckoned that at least six voting booths will be required at every average polling station for the voting process to be conducted smoothly."That would solve the numbers problem," he said, "but now another question arises as to whether each station will have a suitable number of staff assisting the presiding officer to keep the process flowing."

The IEBC has announced that everyone joining a queue prior to the 5 p.m. closing time for polling stations will be permitted to vote.But if the commission does not provide a suitable number of voting booths, some Kenyans could still be waiting in queues at midnight, according to Prof Barkan.In a "contingency planning memorandum" he wrote last month for a US think tank, Prof Barkan criticised IEBC preparations for the March 5 voting.He cited delays in acquiring essential equipment and training polling station workers.But on Wednesday the professor, who has written extensively on Kenya, struck a more optimistic note."My fears about the IEBC being able to pull off the election are far less than what I expressed in my piece, and thought even two weeks ago," Prof Barkan said."All the equipment, ballots, electronic notebooks, etc appear to be in order."

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