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Election websites seek to educate voters

Posted on: November 14, 2009

Election websites seek to educate voters
Education to pave way for trust on automation

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 00:46:00 11/14/2009

Filed Under: Technology (general), Elections

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) launched on Friday its official website for voters’ education that seeks to familiarize Filipinos about the automated electoral process.

Dubbed “Its Better Automated (IBA) na Ngayon” (http://ibanangayon.ph/frontpage), the website features articles, slideshows and videos to guide voters on how to fill up special paper ballots for automated polls, how the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines works, said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

IBA na Ngayon website also features Comelec news and resolutions to update voters on the preparations and guidelines for the 2010 automated polls. It also provides information about Smartmatic and Total Information Management (TIM) that will provide 82,200 PCOS units for the automation of the 2010 elections, Jimenez added.

PCOS is a technology that uses an optical scanner which reads marked ballots fed into the machine. At the close of polls on May, the PCOS units are expected to count votes, generate Election Returns and electronically transmit the consolidated results to Comelec designated servers

Comelec also launched the revamped Bagong Botante (http://bagongbotante.ph/) social network website that features forums and blogs to connect the community of Filipino voters online. Back in 2007, the site featured news and photos to encourage voters to vote wisely and be vigilant to guard the polls from fraud, the official said.

On the last part of the account registration to join the site forums, voters can indicate if they would want to volunteer for the 2010 elections thus enabling Filipinos to join the elections not only as voters but as watchdogs or support staff as well, Jimenez added.

Upon registration in the Bagong Botante social network (http://bagongbotante.ph/?q=user), voters would be able to use features such as blogging, forums, polls, commenting, and uploading of photos and videos. They would also be able to connect with other members of the network, he added.

With the tagline “Botante AKO!” Sandigan ng Demokrasya (translated to “I am a Voter! A Pillar of Democracy”), Bagong Botante stresses the importance of everyone’s responsibility to elect the country’s leaders, in the 2010 elections and beyond, Jimenez said.

“We aim to make these websites easy to navigate and updated with the latest news and information to encourage Filipino voters to learn about our new electoral process and trust the system,” said Jimenez.

Jimenez added under automated polls, the month-long canvassing of votes from municipal up to the national level is shortened to 24 or 48 hours—thus eliminating the possibility of tampering votes via “dagdag bawas” or vote padding and shaving and harassment on teachers.

Rafael Cuenca, voter education website coordinator for Smartmatic-TIM said the website aims to give a better understanding of the automation process and to eventually, “trust the new system” that aims to prevent fraud by speeding up the counting of votes at the precinct-level and holding electornic transmission of results to canvassing centers and Comelec servers.

Jimenez added Comelec also tapped the social networking sites to interact with tech-savvy youth, who comprise more than half of the total 47 million registered voters.

The 2010 elections is the next national elections after the “Hello Garci” scandal in 2004, named after poll commissioner Virgillo Garcillano, who was recorded talking via the phone with then presidential candidate Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo allegedly about fixing of the election results in favor of Arroyo.

With 47 million voters, the 2010 automated elections is the largest in the world and is being cited as a case study for other countries to follow.

IBA na Ngayon also links to Bagong Botante, politicalarena.com(http://ph.politicalarena.com/) that features the presidential and senatorial bets for 2010 and its pages on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Plurk and Friendster.

Meanwhile, Comelec will also hold meetings with blogger communities nationwide to tap bloggers in covering the elections and equip them with fundamental knowledge on the automation process to have better reporting.

Comelec launched its first website in 1998 under the leadership of former Chairman Bernardo Pardo. In 2001 under former Chairman Alfredo Benipayo, it made available online the official results by the National Board of Canvassers for the May 14, 2001 senatorial and party-list elections.

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