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Little-Known Electoral Offences With Heavy Penalties

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Did you know that feigning illiteracy as a voter can send you to jail for up to six months? According to the Election Offences Act 2016, pretending to be unable to read or write so as to be assisted to cast a ballot is an offence that attracts a fine not exceeding Ksh1 million or a jail term of up to six months, or both.

The Act also states that a voter who pretends to be visually impaired or suffering from any other disability so as to be assisted in voting commits an electoral offence punishable by law. However, the law allows persons with disabilities that may hinder their ability to cast a ballot to be assisted either by the polling clerks or a person of their choice.

According to the Act, dropping into the ballot box materials that are not authorised is an offence punishable by law and attracts a penalty of Ksh1 million or a jail term of up to six months or both upon conviction.

A ballot paper displayed in a Nakuru court by a judicial official during a vote scrutiny in 2013

Daily Nation

“A person who puts into any ballot box anything other than the ballot paper which he is authorised by law to put in, commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six years or to both,” reads Section 5(f) of the Election Offences Act.

Other offences that attract similar penalties include forging, counterfeiting, defacing or destroying a ballot paper, interfering with a voter casting their ballot or assisting a voter to cast their ballot when not authorised to do so. 

The law also bars voters or any other person from taking pictures of the ballot paper after casting their vote so as to display it or show it as a sign or allegiance. 

“Any person who captures an image of any marked ballot for purposes of financial gain or for showing allegiance, commits an offence and is liable on conviction, to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both,” reads Section 7(3)(e.) on the Maintenance of Secrecy at Election of the Act. 

Bribing, intimidating, coercing or compelling voters to cast their votes in favour of a particular candidate is also an electoral offence punishable by law.

In the 2013 and 2017 elections, cases of election results manipulation formed the basis of the presidential election petitions, with those aggrieved accusing their opponents of infiltrating the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) voter transmission system.

The Election Offences Act 2016, Section 17, spells harsh penalties for anyone found guilty of such an offence.

“A person who, in relation to the electoral process, intercepts by technical means and without authorisation, any nonpublic transmission of computer data to, from, or within a computer system including electromagnetic emissions from a computer system carrying such computer data, commits an offence and shall be liable, on conviction, to a fine not exceeding ten million shillings or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding ten years or to both,” reads Section 7(e) of the Act.

IEBC officials carry out a voter registration exercise in Kwale County in January 2021

IEBC officials carry out a voter registration exercise in Kwale County in January 2021

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IEBC

Employers are also required to allow their employees enough time to go and cast their votes, failure to which the law holds them to have committed an electoral offence.

“Every employer shall, on polling day, allow a voter in his employ a reasonable period for voting, and no employer shall make any deduction from the pay or other remuneration of any such voter or impose upon or exact from them any penalty by reason of his absence during such period,” reads Section 18(1) of the Act.

Section 18(2) states that an employer who directly or indirectly, or by intimidation, or by undue influence, refuses to grant employee time to go and vote will have committed a crime punishable by law. Should they be found guilty, they are liable to a fine not exceeding Ksh1 million or a jail term not exceeding six years or both.





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