ASIDE FROM AUTOMATED ELECTIONS Comelec may go manual in problem areas
Posted September 16, 2009on:
By Anna Valmero
First Posted 10:12:00 09/16/2009
Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections, Computing & Information Technology
MANILA, Philippines—Allaying fears of failure of elections in 2010, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it will prepare for manual balloting, especially for areas with problems in electricity and telecommunications network coverage.
Comelec chairman Jose Melo told INQUIRER.net that the poll body is preparing for the conduct of manual polls in “30 to 50 percent of areas in the country,” specifically places that are prone to power failures and network transmission issues.
“Aside from preparations for poll automation, Comelec is also preparing for manual elections sa mga liblib na lugar (in remote areas), provinces with no electricity, and would have issues in electronic transmission. We are ready for manual polls in at least 30 percent or 50 percent of the country as a last contingency measure in case the contingency plans for automation are difficult to implement,” said Melo.
The poll chief was reacting to statements expressing the possibility of failure of elections due to the novelty of poll automation.
“The occurrence of nationwide failure of elections as alleged by doomsayers is impossible. Under the laws of probability, all 80,000 PCOS machines nationwide cannot break down. Maybe several would but we have standby units allotted for this and we also have preparations for manual elections,” he said.
Melo said he has ordered Comelec personnel to identify areas to be covered for the preparation of manual polls and canvass the remaining election paraphernalia in stock such as blank ballots, indelible ink, tally sheets, election returns, statements of votes, and certificates of canvass used for manual voting and canvassing.
Presently, Comelec has started finalizing with Smartmatic and Total Information Management the roles of member groups of the project management office (PMO) that will oversee and handle the nationwide poll automation project, said Melo.
Comelec will use precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines to automate the voting, counting, and electronic transmission via public telco networks, and canvassing of votes and finally, declare winners 48 to 36 hours after Election Day.
Melo is also confident there will be no failure of elections next year because of the automated poll system’s paper trail and the body’s preparations for holding manual polls.
He said the Comelec chose to use PCOS machines because the special paper ballots, which contain pre-printed names of candidates with ovals shaded by voters, act as the first primary source document for votes.
As an additional safeguard, the ballots have digital images to be scanned by PCOS when a voter feeds the ballot to the machine after casting his vote. Also, the election results and consolidated votes are both stored in the PCOS machines and transmitted to Comelec servers for municipal to national canvassing, as well as to the dominant majority and minority political parties, poll watchdogs, and the media.