I have formed the impression that when it comes to vote counting and tallying, two documents known as Form 34A and Form 34B are to an election what the cockpit voice recorder (CVR) and flight data recorder (FDR) are to a flight when something goes wrong and has to be investigated and analysed and safeguards against recurrence installed.
Come with me. In the wee hours of Wednesday, Mr Raila Odinga rejected the presidential poll results the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) was releasing electronically.
The National Super Alliance (Nasa) torchbearer argued that the results were not authentic because they were not accompanied by Forms 34A and 34B.
The vote counting and tallying had been going for about six hours and the early results consistently had President Kenyatta in the lead.
Mr Odinga argued that the results being relayed were, in fact, the brainchild of hackers who had accessed, and were manipulating, IEBC’s electronic transmission system.
Post-poll tension in Kenya went a notch higher.
On Thursday at a news conference, Nasa chiefs significantly raised the stakes.
They declared that per their confidential source in IEBC, Mr Odinga had, in fact, won the presidential election. And then Mr Musalia Mudavadi, Nasa’s campaign chief, put the boot in.
He demanded IEBC declares Mr Odinga duly elected president. The tension climbed another notch upwards.
IEBC chairman Wafula Chebukati was at great pains to maintain exterior calmness in the face of the obvious suggestion that the polls umpire was not in control of its own processes and apparatuses.
And, naturally, he also shouldered the onus of assuring nervous Kenyans and local and global interests that he was running a credible General Election.
Mr Chebukati said Nasa’s figures were incorrect and its declaration of Mr Odinga’s triumph premature. Why? Because of the self-same reason Nasa had declared the early results inauthentic — the unavailability of Forms 34A and 34B.
Just as Nasa had wanted these forms to accompany the early tallies, so also did IEBC demand these documents from the coalition.
Earlier IEBC had declared that it could not announce presidential poll results until it had these forms from all the 290 constituency polling centres.
So from IEBC and Nasa, these two documents are to an election vote tallying centre and process the manual equivalents of CVR and FDR in a flight.
Forms 34A and 34B are physical pen-to-paper recordings of a polling station.
Form 34A shows the number of registered voters and how they voted.
This includes the votes cast and accepted as valid; the rejected votes; disputed votes as well as the objected votes. Form 34A is signed by the candidates themselves or their agents before it is handed over to the Constituency Returning Officer or CRO, an official of IEBC.
The CRO, using the information on 34A, fills in and signs 34B, which features the station’s name and code, the number of registered voters, votes gained by each candidate and valid votes cast.
The CRO is then required by law to hand over Form 34B to the chairman of IEBC who is the Returning Officer for the presidential election.
That is how Form 34B is crucial to declaration of the winner of the presidential election. But it is understandable why Mr Odinga or any other interested party would demand that both34A and 34B be made available.
Where CVR and FDR record all cockpit and instrument sounds respectively, 34A and 34B attest to figures counted, witnessed, agreed and signed.
Now, if we all agree that 34A and 34B are the determinants of how Kenyans voted, then we should also agree that all parties to the presidential poll should be furnished with these duly completed forms at the earliest opportunity.
If we agree these forms are this important, then we must also agree to make everything about them transparent.
Because Nasa believes strongly hackers accessed IEBC’s servers and transmitted false results, then 34A and 34B should be used to invalidate hacked results and validate the people’s will.
Indeed, the sole reason Nasa installed a parallel vote tabulation process was to ensure tallying at polling centres would not be manipulated by riggers.
Now, because these forms are a safeguard against rigging or could be invaluable evidence to prove or disapprove rigging, I think they are tangible and better grounds upon which Nasa should base its charges of vote cheating than hang them solely on a confidential IEBC source that let them in on the invisible computer-based fraud.