Once again, our democratic system is directing us back to the polling booths. It is the election period. The campaign trail is almost climaxing, with all politicians moving from the capital city to the grassroots level (including the president). No one called them back home, but the power of the “VOTE” commands respect whenever its time is ripe. If you have never witnessed the true power of devolution, just check out how leaders are now paying attention to the citizens at the grassroots. The Kenyan voter is the most powerful person at this time and every leader is working hard to gain audience with. It is for this reason that I sought to understand how the behaviors and characteristics of the Kenyan voter in the presidential elections.
In the presidential election, it is and has been in most cases a two horse race (not undermining any candidates). An analysis of the voting behavior among the Kenyan voter as per the last election reveals that two voting blocs either support Raila Odinga or Uhuru Kenyatta (in their every change party affiliations) and a few counties being the swing votes regions. Among the 47 counties, Raila had 10 strongholds (gathering over 80% of the casted votes) while Uhuru claimed 80% in 16 counties.
The election in 2013 received an overall voter turn-out of 86% of all registered voters, the highest ever recorded). An analysis of the voters turn out among the two major regional blocs indicates higher turn-out in Uhuru Kenyatta’s strongholds. Raila’s strongholds had lower voter turn-out. Amongst the 16 counties where Uhuru Kenyatta received more than 80%, 11 of these had a voter turn-out more than 90% and 5 counties above 85% with only 1 county having a voter turn-out of less than 85%.
Amongst Raila’s 10 stronghold counties, 4 counties received a voter turn-out above 90%, with 4 more counties having registered more turn-out between 80–89% and 2 counties having a turn-out below 80%.
Changes in the Number of Registered Voters between the two major voting blocs
There has been an increase in the number of registered voters of 36.72% relative to the number of registered voters in 2013. The three counties that recorded the highest increase in the number of registered voters were Turkana with 67.05, Mombasa (62.03) and Kilifi with 62.01. The three counties are part of the regions that Raila Odinga’s strongholds. Amongst the counties where President Uhuru Kenyatta gets strong support, only Kiambu County managed to record an increase in the registered voters above 50% at 59.07%.4 of the counties that had a 40–49% increase in number of registered voters strongly support Raila Odinga, while with only 3 of the counties that had 40–49% increase strongly supporting President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Enrollment Rate of the registered voters in 2017
Among the 47 counties, 5 counties exceeded the IEBC’s target of the number of registered voter. These include Kiambu County with a record of 111.90%, Nairobi with 110.31, Lamu 105.52%, Kirinyaga 102.81% and Nyeri County attaining an enrollment of 102.28%.
Amongst the 10 counties where Raila Odinga received 80% of the valid votes in 2013, none these counties attained an enrollment rate above 90%. Among these 10 Raila’s stronghold, 4 counties attained an enrollment above 80%, 3 counties had an enrollment rate between 70–79% and 2 counties attaining an enrollment between 65–69%.
Amongst the 16 counties that supported President Uhuru with over 80% of the cast votes, 3 counties had an enrollment exceeding 100%, 5 counties recorded an enrollment above 90%, 1 county had an enrollment between 80–89%, 4 counties between 70–79%, 2 counties recording registration between the range of 60–69% and 1 county (Mandera county) recording an enrollment of 26.26% of the targeted registered voters.
Voter turn-out vs. Enrollment Rate
A comparison between the voter turn-out in the 2013 elections and the enrollment level in the 2017 voter registration reveals that only 13 counties had greater voter enrollment rate than the voter turn-out rate experienced during the 2013 election. This is a likely indicator on the need to enhance civic education amongst the citizens on the importance of engaging in election related activities.
Voter Registration amongst the Youth
Of the total number of registered voters for the 2017 elections, 51% of these voters are youth of age 18–35 years. This an increase from the number of youth registered for the 2013 election which was 46% of the total registered voters. The highest change amongst the registered youth is in the age group 26–35 year that increased from 15% in 2013 to the 33.41% in 2017. The proportion of registered voters amongst the age group 18–25 years in relation to the total registered voters did not change significantly, as it is currently at 17.14% from 17% in 2013. This probably points out that the young generation up to 25 years are not actively engage in election related activities with higher involvement and thus civic education needs to target this particular group.
The change in the registered voters aged 18–25 years between 2013 and 2017 was higher among the males at 40.55% compared to that of female at 37.56%.
However, among the youth aged 26–35 years, there was a higher increase amongst the female of 62.16% compared to males with a change of 50.22% in the number of registered youth for the 2013 and 2017 election.
Gender Analysis of the Registered Voters
As illustrated in the graph above, the gender disparity in the registered voters is not very large in many counties. Amongst the 47 counties, 21 counties have slightly higher numbers of registered females as compared to male. Kilifi County has the highest proportion of registered voters being female at 62.81, followed by Turkana with 57.56%. Nandi County had the least proportion of female registered as voters at 40.40%.
An analysis of the total number of female in the register of voters against the eligible number from the National Registration Bureau statistics, indicate a higher registration rate among females aged 18–34 years. Among this group, 78.92% of the eligible voters are registered as voters. Amongst the female 35 years and above, only 70.73% of the total eligible voters are registered as voters. This indicates more enthusiasm amongst the younger generation of the female as compared to the older generation to participate in the election. This is an important indicator to the feminist outreach groups that more campaigns may be needed to encourage women become actively engaged in the civic duties.