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Comelec uses special ballots to educate voters

Posted on: November 12, 2009

Comelec uses special ballots to educate voters

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 18:39:00 11/11/2009

Filed Under: Technology (general), Elections, Eleksyon 2010

MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will use colored paper ballots to educate voters on next year’s automated polls.

Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the special ballots with pre-printed names will have color-coded borders per election office to prevent “overvoting” and having the votes discarded by the machines for the specific office.

“We will print more than 100,000 of these colored ballots, which we will distribute when we start our nationwide voters education soon,” said Larrazabal.

By next month, Comelec will distribute to the 16 regional election offices the 20 prototypes of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines and the special colored ballots for its first leg of the voters’ education campaign, he said.

Under the automated system, voters will shade ovals opposite pre-printed names of candidates in specially-printed ballots and feed them to the machines for scanning (of ballot images) and counting; the machines will then count the votes and transmit results electronically from polling precincts to Comelec servers (located in Metro Manila) for consolidation.

At present, Comelec is using four of the 20 machines to hold demonstration of automation process for road shows and requests of interested groups, said Larrazabal.

“We cannot deploy all the 20 PCOS machines for voters education yet unless we have the ballots that voters can see and use in the demonstration. It would be more fruitful if the voters would be able to get a feel of the ballots during the demonstration so they can be guided how to cast or shade them and how not to overvote when they see the color coded borders,” said Larrazabal.

With the color scheme, candidates running for the presidential post will be bordered by a black line, candidates for senators in green and party lists in blue to guide voters, said Larrazabal.

Comelec earlier warned voters that under the new electoral system, selecting candidates beyond the required number of elective seats will result in an overvote that will invalidate the votes, said Larrazabal, who is the head of the steering committee on poll automation.

For example, if a voter shades 13 names instead of 12 for senator, all 13 votes will be disregarded by the poll machine unlike in manual polls, in which the first 12 choices are manually tallied by the BEI and the 13th choice is disregarded as an overvote, said Larrazabal.

As an added modification, Comelec will assign numbers to each party list candidates to make it easier for voters to cast their choices, said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

Party lists that won a representative seat in previous elections are those appearing first in the list, especially with names starting with A since the candidates are listed alphabetically, he observed.

“As part of our new guidelines, we will be assigning party lists specific numbers and acronyms that will be put in the ballot to represent their group. This number and acronym can be used when they campaign so that it would be easier for voters to remember them,” said Jimenez.

Since the new ballots would require special markers which could create smudges in the opposite side of the paper, a blank strip at the opposite side of the page corresponding to the position of the ovals for shading, will be provided. This is to prevent blotting of the pre-printed names of candidates found on the other side of the ballot page.

Special papers for the colored ballots will be provided by Smartmatic-Total Information Management and will be printed by the National Printing Office starting next month.

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