Kisumu National Polytechnic becomes the first tertiary institution to conduct a fully electronic election in choosing student leaders. The Information Communication and Technology services (ICT services) department deployed the e-voting system that it developed for a by-election held on February 16, 2017 at the Students’ Centre to fill the positions of Chairman and Vice chairman that fell vacant due to election irregularities in the previous polls.
Francis Fergusson Ouma, a third-year Diploma in Pharmacy, clinched the chairmanship with 830 votes ahead of Fanuel Odoyo, a second-year Diploma in Supply Chain Management student, who garnered 580 votes and automatically becomes the Chief Whip. Patrick Otieno, a first-year Diploma in Civil Engineering student came in third and Naftali Wasonga, the only aspirant for the position of Vice Chair, assumed the position unopposed.
The e-voting system involves students voting online using computers and comes complete with a live tally that indicates the performance of the various candidates in real time.
The system uses the existing students’ database drawn from the nominal roll as an electronic register. This institution captures this information upon a student’s admission, after payment of school fees as well as during registration at the various departments where students enroll to take their courses.
The process is simple and fast. To vote a student must be duly registered in the Kisumu National Polytechnic registry and the relevant department, during this process the system captures their fingerprints and other relevant details. The first group of polling clerks confirm the bio-metrics of the voter before he moves to the second stage where they verify his registration details. At this point the student furnishes his student ID or the admission number.
“It is essential to confirm that the bio-metrics in the system match those of the student who presents himself to vote. We do this because we do not permit students on attachment to vote”, said Mr. Ochenya, the deputy dean. “When we are unable to verify a student’s fingerprints due to sweaty palms or for whatever reason, we resort to a manual voters’ register generated from the system database” explained the chief commissioner, Mr Dennis Okumu.
After verification, the student proceeds to cast his vote in one of the electronic booths then proceeds to the final step in the process known as the Ink Stage. Here the voter goes to the Ink desk where the index finger is stained with indelible ink. This ensures he doesn’t try to vote a second time. However, the e-voting system has a mechanism that ensures a student is unable to choose twice by rejecting such a voter.
“Voting is simplified and the process is user friendly. A student simply logs-in to the e-voting interface by typing in their admission number. A page displaying the aspirants vying for various positions appears with their images and names, enabling the student to select his preferred candidates,” explained Mr Peter Ogada, Head of ICT services.
During the voting process, the aspirants monitor the exercise from a live tallying screen stationed at a designated corner in the Student’s Centre. It updates the vote count for each position in real time and constantly revises the tally. “The system displays the total number of registered voters, those who have cast their votes and aspirants’ total votes. This makes the exercise transparent, I will accept the results as they are,” said Mr Otieno, the aspirant who took third place in the race for chairperson.
In his acceptance speech, the Chairman, Mr Ouma, lauded the system for its transparency, “It is truly a fool-proof system and no tallying is required, immediately the voting process ends the results are announced and a winner declared,” he said.
The system minimizes election irregularities such as ballot stuffing and instances of voting more than once. “With this system, we don’t have to print ballot papers or worry about students voting twice. Voting and tallying happen concurrently and this saves us time,” said Mrs Khoja.
The Kisumu National Polytechnic is the first technical tertiary institution to use such a system in managing the students’ election process. “At the TKNP, we embrace technology, and for that reason we invest in and support technological innovations aligned to our goals. This new team needs to work on the current constitution to accommodate an e-voting system and move the election period from September to January,” said the Principal Mrs Joyce Nyanjom.