Kenya could borrow a leaf from Papua New Guinea’s electoral practice. With a population of 7.6 million people and 850 spoken languages, Papua New Guinea has one of the world’s most ethnic driven politics. In 2002, the country ushered in a new voting practice known as Limited Preferential Voting to encourage voting for other clan candidates. Instead of a picking one candidate, the system allows voters to select up to three candidates, in order of preference.
Data generated from the voting is fed to a manual “weighted sum model” to compute the winner of the election. In the “model”, if there isn’t a candidate with 50% + 1 on the first preference vote, the second and third preferences are used as “weights”. The candidate with the least first preference votes is eliminated and their votes distributed among the rest on a ratio dependent on how much second preference votes the other candidates got. The process is repeated using the third preference vote until a winner with 50% + 1 votes emerges. Example is shown below.
One inherent advantage of the system is elimination of run-off election. The exclusion and distribution of votes eventually ensures there’s a candidate with 50% + 1 votes. This would save billions of Kenyan shillings in election expenditure. In addition, the voting system removes the mutually exclusive choice in presidential elections – more then often than not, this is a stimulus for post-election violence. In many cases, the candidate with more second and third preferential votes end up winning the election – a mechanism that could curb Kenya’s “tyranny of numbers” phenomenon – much like the US electoral college.
On the down side, it takes on average one month to the count votes – a situation far from the patience of Kenyans. If voting is electronic, the algorithm can be implemented in code and automatically compute the winner. Kenya, however, is yet to embrace online voting.
Given the time and complexity of vote counting, the method has been limited to presidential (Prime Minster) voting in Papua New Guinea. The question at hand is whether Kenyans are willing to change the constitution and adopt a new voting system.