As a commission under the New Constitution, the roles and functions of the IEBC emanate from its mandate to: (a) protect the sovereignty of the people; (b) secure the observance by all State organs of democratic values and principles; and (c) promote constitutionalism (249. (1). This means the IEBC is created to ensure (and assure) that the systems and processes of representation in Kenya are and remain democratic in line with the eight wishes of the people of Kenya concerning politics and the electoral process. These wishes, nay demands, are listed in Chapter 7 - Representation of the People, Part 1 - Electoral System and Process, Article 81, excerpts:
81. The electoral system shall comply with the following principles–– (a) freedom of citizens to exercise their political rights under Article 38; (b) not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender; (c) fair representation of persons with disabilities; (d) universal suffrage based on the aspiration for fair representation and equality of vote; and (e) free and fair elections, which are— (i) by secret ballot; (ii) free from violence, intimidation, improper influence or corruption; (iii) conducted by an independent body; (iv) transparent; and (v) administered in an impartial, neutral, efficient, accurate and accountable manner.
The IEBC is expected to take Kenya to the 'Canaan' of a perfected electoral system and process. These eight fundamental wishes of our Constitution in Article 81 above, echo Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that: “(1) Everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives. ....... (3) The will of the people shall be the basis of the authority of government; this will shall be expressed in periodic and genuine elections which shall be by universal and equal suffrage and shall be held by secret vote or by equivalent free voting procedures.” (Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights).
The IEBC is a Constitutional Commission that combines two independent functions: delimitation and elections. Let us first look at its role and function in delimitation:
82. (1) ....... (a) the delimitation by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of electoral units for election of members of the National Assembly and county assemblies;
88. (4) The Commission is responsible ....... for- (c) the delimitation of constituencies and wards;
89. (2) The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission shall review the names and boundaries of constituencies ....... but any review shall be completed at least twelve months before a general election of members of Parliament.
(3)The Commission shall review the number, names and boundaries of wards periodically.
Secondly, the IEBC is the body expected to design and manage any and every electoral system and process used in Kenya:
90. (2) The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission shall be responsible for the conduct and supervision of elections ........
88. (4) The Commission is responsible for conducting or supervising referenda and elections to any elective body or office established by this Constitution, and any other elections as prescribed by an Act of Parliament and, in particular, for— (a) the continuous registration of citizens as voters; (b) the regular revision of the voters’ roll; (f) the registration of candidates for election; (g) voter education; (h) the facilitation of the observation, monitoring and evaluation of elections;
It may interest the reader to note that a significant proportion of IEBC's budget is spent on the very important process of voter education.
Besides its traditional responsibility of the conduct of elections and referendums, the IEBC will also be in-charge of those national referendums called as part of legislative processes seeking to amend specific sections of the Constitution. Chapter 16 - Amendment to this Constitution, Article 256, excerpts:
256. (5) ..... a Bill to amend this Constitution ........ the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission ......... conduct, ....... a national referendum ........ the President shall assent to the Bill .........
The IEBC is also responsible for verifying that a popular initiative seeking to amend any part of the Constitution is in proper order, and thereupon to forward it to all county assemblies for consideration. If such a draft Bill (created by a popular initiative) is passed by a majority of County Assemblies but fails to pass in either House of Parliament thereafter, the IEBC must subject it to a referendum (Article 257, summarised).