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Court extends voter registration deadline amid last minute rush

Thousands of Kenyans on Tuesday joined long queues at various registration centres across the country in a last minute rush to register as voters.

But by evening, the High Court offered those who had not registered a reprieve after it extended the deadline to Thursday.

Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita issued a temporary order suspending the registration deadline after activist Okiya Omtata moved to court to challenge it.

“I hereby grant an order to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission not to close the voter registration as scheduled on February 14 but continue with the process until February 16 when this matter will be heard,” said Justice Mwita.

CONTRARY TO LAW

According to Mr Omtata, the decision to terminate the registration of voters five months to the elections date was contrary to the Elections Act 2011, which dictates that the same should be done until 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 have the mandate to elect the country’s political leaders,” said Mr Omtata.

Mr Omtata requested the court to issue an order stopping anyone from directing that the registration ends.

He also wants the electoral commission and the Registrar of Persons compelled to publish an accurate status report, which includes the number of eligible voters in each county, those who have registered as well as those who have not.

Also to be included in the report, he says, is a list of 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 or passport.

RACE AGAINST TIME

Earlier, it was a race against time for the eligible voters, as they trooped to various registration centres.

In western Kenya, centres in Kisumu, Homa Bay, Kisii, Nyamira, Migori and Bomet counties had long queues, with leaders attributing this to aggressive campaigns to rally residents to take up the card ahead of the August polls.

Opposition leaders Raila Odinga of ODM, Musalia Mudavadi of ANC and Ford Kenya’s Moses Wetang’ula, and a host of governors have been crisscrossing the region for the past two weeks to ask the residents to enlist.