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Comelec: All ballots with security marks

Posted on: February 23, 2010

Comelec: All ballots with security marks

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:31:00 02/22/2010

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections

MANILA, Philippines— (UPDATE) The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said all ballots it ordered printed, including the 1.7 million for use in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), have the necessary security markings and are fit for use in the May elections.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal made the statement in a radio interview, in reaction to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report quoting Archbishop Oscar Cruz, Father Joe Dizon of Kontra Daya, and other sources which said that the ballots for ARMM did not have the government-mandated markings of the National Printing Office (NPO).

ARMM consists of the provinces of Basilan, Lanao Del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi.

Larrazabal said the 1.7 million ballots that were printed have the UV ink and bar codes. These security features are the ones that the machines would check to verify the authenticity of the ballots, he said in a radio interview.

“Their point of comparison is manual elections—that when there is doubt about the authenticity of the ballot, the NPO will go there and check and say if their security marking is there. But now, we have to realize that the machine itself will determine if a ballot is fake, because if it is, it won’t be accepted by the machine,” Larrazabal said in the radio interview.

In a separate interview, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said, “Actually, under the contract we have five security layers for all ballots, even without the additional NPO markings. These five primary security features include the paper, UV ink from Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM, regular barcode, Comelec security markings and unique precinct-based numbers.”

Jimenez said the five layers of security in the ballots would enable the poll machine to determine if a ballot is a fake and reject it.

“The machines are unique per precinct and would only read the ballots with the barcodes assigned to that precinct,” said the Comelec spokesman.

Larrazabal explained that there was a proposal to put a two-D (two dimensional) bar code in each ballot as an “additional marking” of the NPO.

The additional 2D barcode was recommended by NPO to Comelec days before the start of the ballot printing, Jimenez further explained, so the poll agency decided to go ahead with the printing since the adoption of the 2D barcode “would delay the printing by several days to weeks.”

“The problem is you have to include the software of the printer. It’s very time consuming to include that…meaning to say that when you print out the ballots it will breed a lot of problems,” Larrazabal said.

“The precinct count optical scan machines are configured to scan for the UV ink and the barcode to determine the authenticity of the ballots. Even without the 2D markings, the machines can determine the fake ballots and reject them,” he added.

Larrazabal said those who were quoted in the story may not have “fully understood the security features and the way the election will be done.”

In any case, the commissioner said, all printed ballots will be open to the scrutiny of political parties to verify their authenticity.

In a separate phone interview, Larrazabal said that all printed ballots “will be verified and we will invite all political parties before they are sealed and transported.”

The official added that representatives of political parties and watchdog groups may also be present during printing to check.

Meanwhile, Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM agreed to print the additional UV ink of NPO on non-ARMM ballots as a sixth layer of ballot security, said Larrazabal.

NPO suggested the inclusion of the 2D barcode for resolving protests on issuance of fake ballots to voters, as with the manual polls wherein the printer is asked to determine the authenticity of the ballots.

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