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Poll machines undergo stress tests

Posted on: May 28, 2009

Poll machines undergo stress tests
By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 10:51:00 05/28/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Technology (general)

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections is making sure the poll machines can pass its “high accuracy of 99.9995 percent” in reading ballot marks before it is allowed to be used in the 2010 elections, an official said.

This is one of the requirements under the poll body’s technical evaluation and post qualification process for consortium of Smartmatic and local partner Total Information Management, which is the lone qualifying bidder for the P11.2 billion automation contract, while pending appeals from other bidders are being resolved.

Quoting a report by the Technical Working Group (TWG), Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) chairman Ferdinand Rafanan said that after under going stress tests, the consortium’s poll machines have so far read 19,992 instead of the required 20,000 ballot marks or shades needed for its accuracy testing.

Rafanan said the poll machines are required to show 99.9995 percent accuracy in reading ballot marks. This means it should have no more than one error in reading 20,000 ballot marks in the 625 test ballots (supposedly with 32 vote marks each) used for the technical evaluation. Thus the poll machines have to undergo another set of testing.

While the machines showed 100 percent accuracy in reading the 19,992 vote marks in the test ballots, the TWG could not declare that poll machines have already passed the accuracy criteria.

“We are supposed to test the machines for 20,000 marks in accuracy and we have tested it for less than that. We have to test them on Thursday (May 28) alongside the end-to-end demonstration and evaluation. You have to comply with one error or less in the 20,000 marks in the requirement before you can say the item is complied with by the machines,” said Rafanan.

The poll machines, also known as precinct count optical scans (PCOS), uses special paper ballots marked by voters. These marks are then scanned and counted by optical mark readers once the special ballots are fed into the machines. These marks beside names of candidates are then consolidated.

So far, the “the machines of Smartmatic-TIM passed 19 of the set 26 technical criteria and has to be tested for the remaining requirements” to pass the technical evaluation, added Rafanan quoting the report of the TWG.

Rafanan pointed out that the special ballots used during the testing had space for 300 names, which Comelec expects in order to place names of candidates who will run for both local and national posts.

Unlike the traditional ballots used for manual elections, the special ballots contain pre-printed names of the candidates that voters will mark during the elections, he added.

Representatives from Smartmatic-TIM said they would coordinate with the TWG for the second batch of ballots to be used for the accuracy testing.

The end-to-end demonstration of the poll machines and evaluation of remaining criteria would be conducted Thursday, said Rafanan.

He said that while Smartmatic-TIM consortium must pass the post qualification or verification of eligibility documents, all bid appeals should also be resolved before SBAC can award the contract “hopefully by first or second week of June,” said Rafanan.

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