(STAR) By Ana de Villa Singson - To date, 50,086,054 voters have registered, with an additional 260,113 weighing in during the extended registration period last December 2009.

As voters go to one of the almost 38,000 polling centers all over the country on May 10, 2010, they will be doing what they have always done in past elections: look for their names in the PCVL (Posted Computerized Voters List) posted near the door of the voting center. The list will indicate the number of the polling precinct where they will vote.

Previously, one polling precinct had approximately 200 voters. This time, precincts will be clustered, with up to seven precincts in the same barangay clustered into one polling center, with a maximum of 1,000 voters per clustered precinct. Clustering maximizes the PCOS machines, since one machine can count up to 1,000 ballots. Once clustered, there will be approximately 75,000 clustered precincts nationwide, each with one PCOS machine.

The voter then proceeds to his precinct and, like before, the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI)/teachers will look for his name in the Book of Voters, and verify his photograph, specimen signature against the Voters Registration Record (VRR). When it is determined that he indeed is a registered voter of that precinct, he will be given a ballot. It is at this point that one of the largest differences between the old manual voting system and the new automated election system (AES) becomes apparent to the voter.

The old ballot had blanks where you write down the names of your selected candidates. If you make a mistake or change your mind, you could write a new name over the scratched out one.

In the new system, you cannot do that.

The new ballot is about 24 inches long and 8 inches wide and is color coded per elective position. It can contain up to 300 names on the front and another 300 names on the back of the ballot. An oval is printed beside the name of each candidate. To fill up a ballot, a voter will have to shade the oval directly beside the selected candidateís name.

Under each elective position, the ballot will indicate how many candidates you need to vote for. For example, in the section for SENATORS, it will indicate ďVote for not more than 12.Ē (Editorís note: More detailed information on the proper way of filling up the new ballot as well as detailed directions on the voting process will be tackled in a future article in this series.)

In the old system, ballots can be used interchangeably throughout the country, since it contained blank spaces. The ballot used in a precinct in Manila can also be used in a precinct in Bacolod. However, the new ballot in the AES is precinct-specific. Since the names of candidates are printed on the ballot, the candidates for congressman, governor, mayor and other local positions are specific to a district, province, and/or city, and cannot be used in another district, province and/or city.

The ballots are barcoded down to the precinct-level, and the PCOS machine will read the barcode and know if the ballot being inserted belongs to its clustered polling precinct. The PCOS will spit out or reject a ballot if it belongs to another clustered polling precinct.

In the old manual system, a ballot could be duplicated for dubious use. In the new ballot, ultraviolet ink will be used to create an invisible security mark. Other security features have also been incorporated into the new ballot. One can try to duplicate a ballot, but the security features cannot be photocopied. Unlike the old ballot, you cannot erase, replace, scratch out and/or add names in the new ballot. There will only be one ballot printed for every voter and each voter will have one chance to fill it up correctly. You cannot go back to the BEI and ask for a new ballot if you make a mistake. So please,vote carefully and use your ballot well!

Next week: Paano ba ito? The ABCs of filling out the ballot

Editorís note: Every Sunday until the Sunday before election day, we will run articles on the different aspects of the Automated Election System to be used in the May 10 polls, including the system itself and the machine, how to vote, what to do and what not to do, the citizenís role, and others. This series is an initiative of STARweek in cooperation with non-partisan groups such as the PPCRV, and does not involve any politician or political party. Readers may send in questions and comments by email to

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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