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High Court extends voter registration deadline to Sunday

Kenyans who have not yet registered to vote have more time to do so as required by the law, the High Court has ruled.

Justice Enoch Chacha Mwita ordered the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to allow those who would have been locked out of participating in the August 8 General Election by Thursday, one last chance to have themselves registered to vote until Sunday.

The judge, however, pointed out that it is only the mass registration that is set to end on February 19 while a continued process of registering would still continue up to May 17, which would be exactly 60 days to the voting date.

“Although this court is not supposed to interfere with administrative matters and taking into account financial logistical preparations… the IEBC is hereby directed to continue with mass voter registration process upto February 19 at 6.00p.m,” Justice Mwita said.

FAULTED IEBC

The judge faulted the IEBC for not showing any signs of extending the voter registration as well as evidence.

He also pointed out that claims made by activist Okiya Omtatah that continued registration at the constituency level violates the rights of eligible voters and that the kind of documents to be used for the process were valid issues for determination.

“There is the question of passports or birth certificates should be used, it is a valid question that needs to be resolved so as to conclude this matter,” Justice Mwita said.

The IEBC had set the deadline for voter registration as February 14 but the judge had extended that exercise to Thursday after Mr Omtatah challenged the process saying that it would be unconstitutional to lock out potential voters this early yet the law requires that process to end only two months to the election date.

Prior to the verdict being issued, the judge had asked the lawyer representing the IEBC, Mr Eric Gumbo, Mr Robert Asembo for a lobby that joined as an interested party in the case and Mr Omtatah to agree on the way forward of the case but they could not reach to any consensus.

Consequently a four-hour hearing was held before the verdict was issued on whether the mass registration period could be extended and for what purpose.

NOT IMPARTIAL

“Their mandate is clear as per the constitution, elections are a process not an event, I am faulting IEBC that the administration of the election process has not been impartial, this brings out the issue of retrogressive rights,” Mr Omtatah said.

He accused the IEBC of failing to table evidence to the court that there would be financially challenged if the voter registration process was allowed to continue.

He also claimed that the mass voter registration is important yet the IEBC had opted to have it conducted at constituency level which would force those who have not registered yet to travel and forfeit their day’s work.

But the IEBC insisted that if the voter registration process is extended, the commission would have to go back to Parliament to be able to get more funds to support its activities hence requested the judge to dismiss the case.

Mr Gumbo also told court that the mass voter registration exercise has been conducted in two periods appropriately.

SMALL WINDOW

“That small window is an administration decision of IEBC, it cannot be arbitrary,” the activist said.

He wants the IEBC and the Registrar of persons to be 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 also wants it declared that birth certificates are valid documents for purposes of registering to vote as an alternative to an ID or passport.