10 Election Terms and What they Mean


An election is a formal process through which citizens elect people to elective offices. In Kenya, elections are held every 5 years. During elections, citizens get an opportunity to exercise their sovereign power directly. With their vote, they can choose to remove under-performing leaders from office and re-elect those they believe will represent and serve them better. Certain terms are used widely during elections and knowing what they mean could aid meaningful conversations among citizens. Here are commonly used terms that you’ll come across before, during and after elections:  

  1. Ballot paper

This is a paper used by a voter to register his/her choice in an election. Ballot papers for different elective positions are printed with the names of candidates, party names and party symbols. A space is provided against each candidate for voters to indicate their choices by putting a mark (either a tick or an X) as required by the law. Ballot papers come in different in colours depending on the elective post for purposes of differentiating them and making it easier for voters to identify.  

  1. Ballot box

This is a transparent container that is used to hold marked ballot papers on election day. It is often sealed but has an opening at the top enough to take in a ballot paper during. After marking the ballot papers, voters put them in ballot boxes. Each elective post has its own ballot box with a lid that is of a matching colour with the relevant ballot paper.

  1. Candidate

This is an individual who offers him or herself up for election by citizens in order to hold a specific elective post. It is a person who contests in an election and his or her name alongside photo and party symbol appears on the ballot paper for citizens to choose on election day.

  1. Registered Voter

This is a person who is registered by the election management body (IEBC) and whose name and identification details appear on the roll or register of voters. A registered voter qualifies to cast his/her vote in an election from the polling station where he or she registered.

     5. Identification Document







This is an official document that IEBC officials use to identify a voter during elections. It could be an identification card or a valid passport. On election day, citizens are required to present the same identification document they used to register as voters. This is because for one to be positively identified, the details on the identification document presented on election day must match those contained in the IEBC voter register.

   6. Election Materials

This refers to materials used used in an election. These materials include ballot papers, ballot boxes, envelopes, counterfoils, packet statements, ballot box seals and any other documents required to facilitate voting in an election. Election materials also include voting booths, instruments, information technology equipment such as the Kenya Integrated Electoral Management System (KIEMS) and any other materials used for the purpose of carrying out an election.

   7. Election Officer

This is an official recruited or contracted by the IEBC for the purpose of conducting an election under the Election Act. Election officers include returning officers, presiding officers and polling clerks. On election day, these officers are easy to identify because they have reflector jackets and badges.

   8. Polling Station

This is the building or structure where voting takes place in an election. Often, the structure used as a polling station during elections is used for other purposes like a school.  During elections, the station is equipped with election equipment including ballot boxes to facilitate casting of votes by citizens. The law requires that a building be gazetted by the IEBC for it to serve as a polling station.

     9. Election Offences

These are offences relating to elections as provided for in the Elections Act, 2016. Election offences are punishable by law either through jail term or payment of heavy fines.

     10. The Commission

This refers to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), an independent regulatory body established in 2011 under Article 88 of the Constitution of Kenya. The commission is responsible for conducting and supervising the election process in Kenya.



    • Florence Maina 3 August, 2017 at 10:52 Reply

      Charity, a polling centre is where one registers as a voter while a polling station is where you are assigned to actually cast your vote on the election day. A given polling centre could be hosting a number of polling stations.

Leave a reply