Improve media tallying of election results


Security agents and presiding officers queue at Jamhuri High School to deliver voting materials at the tallying Center for Starehe Constituency, Nairobi on August 10, 2022. PHOTO | BILLY MUTAI | NMG

Media houses tallying of the 2022 presidential election played a crucial role in managing what would be an otherwise highly anxious nation as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) treaded more cautiously in updating Kenyans on the numbers.

The Supreme Court ruling that annulled the 2017 presidential poll set a high bar for the IEBC in the manner it conducts voting and transmits the results, which the elections body striving to avoid legal minefields.

Kenya has now set the stage for an increasing role of media in election tallying going forward bringing in a persuasive need to craft standards and guidelines on how to accommodate this expanded role.

In this year’s presidential election tallying by the media, though significantly important, confusion arose among Kenyans when different houses portrayed different results due to the lack of a synchronised approach.

Various media outlets drew the data from the same source, with each doing it randomly as uploaded by IEBC, but displayed highly varying tallies, which caused confusion and jitters among many Kenyans.

In attempts to enhance transparency and accountability, the IEBC, in a very encouraging move towards conducting free and fair elections, the electoral body set up a public portal with all the form 34As, to allow any Kenya to follow the electoral outcome by tallying the results.

This unexpected move became a very important tool to media houses, eager to keep the nation informed.

However, there was a clear manifestation of the media houses lacking manpower in carrying out the laborious task of data processing, based on the time it has taken them to give provisional results.

The slow pace at which mainstream media tallied the provisional results is a clear testimony of how hard the process is, which should inform them to prepare personnel and tools for such an undertaking in the future.

Since the IEBC has not been able to meet the expectation of same-day election results, partly due to the complex nature of our elections, and with the low level of confidence the agency has faced in the past, media outlets should utilise the public portal to quickly and accurately determine who wins the highest office in the land in future.

And with the ability to have reporters spread across the country during elections, the creation of more tallying centres would look plausible. They should not necessarily wait for the IEBC to upload the data in the portal but can employ their own tools to collect data from the field.

Independent tallying strengthens transparency and accountability with an ability to legitimize IEBC processes. News organizations can improve methods of collecting data and work in tandem to avoid relaying confusing outcomes.