PAANO BA ITO?  ABC'S OF AUTOMATED VOTING

[PHOTO AT LEFT - On February 20, 2010, Comelec starts training DOST staff on poll automation]

MANILA, MARCH 9, 2010 (STAR) By Ana de Villa Singson - On May 10, history will be made. While many of us are veterans of past polls, we will be neophytes in the first-ever nationwide automated election. Intimidating as it may sound, the nuts and bolts of voting on May 10 are really not so very different from previous elections.

Most instructional materials will tell you that the process starts when you enter the polling center. I humbly contend that it starts much earlier than that – with a deliberation process on whom to vote for, a process which should be done with care, considering that the future of our country – your future and my future, and the future of our children – depends a great deal on the candidates you give your vote to. When decisions have been made on whom to vote for, it would be helpful to make a list, a reference for the actual voting procedure on election day. On May 10, polling centers nationwide will open their doors to voters from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. (in past elections, voting ended at 3 p.m.). The first thing to do is to consult the Computerized Voter’s List posted near the entrance of the polling center to locate your name, precinct number and sequence number. If you would like to go to the polls prepared, you can actually get your precinct number beforehand by logging on to www.comelec.gov.ph. Click on the website’s Registration Finder which will identify your precinct.

I spent several anxious moments when my search yielded multiple negative responses. This was due to the “Maria” which prefaces my name. For the many ladies like me, try typing in the different versions of Maria until you get a positive search result. I got it after five tries, typing MA. ANA – with a space after the period – as my first name. But it was worth the effort. I now know the exact address of my polling center, my exact precinct number and am gratified to know that my status as a voter is “Active.”

Inside the precinct, give your name, address and sequence number to a member of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), who will check these against the Election Day Computerized Voters List (EDCVL). If your name is in the EDCVL, your identity is then established through your photograph in the EDCVL or specimen signature in the Voters Registration Record (VRR). You may be asked to provide further proof of identity. Community tax certificates (or cedula) and barangay clearances are not acceptable IDs. In the absence of any proof of identity, the BEI member or any registered voter in the same clustered precinct may identify you under oath. Once identity is established, the BEI member will state your name out loud. This is done as a further identity check, allowing pollwatchers and other voters to challenge your identity if it is wrongly assumed.

Once verified, the BEI chairman will check that none of your fingers is stained with indelible ink, which indicates that you have already voted. Once cleared, the BEI chairman will affix his signature on the EDCVL and on the upper right hand portion of the ballot. He will instruct you on how to fill the ballot. He places the ballot in a ballot secrecy folder and hands it over with a marker pen. You will then be required to sign your name in the EDCVL.

Go to any of the seats or polling booths to fill out your ballot. To vote, simply shade the oval beside the name of your chosen candidate. Please be careful about shading. Shade the oval fully. Don’t put a check or X mark or any other marking since the PCOS (Precinct Counter Optical Scanner) machine is programmed to read a shaded oval. What if you accidentally shade beyond the oval? It’s okay, your vote will still be counted as long as your shading does not reach the oval of another candidate. But be careful not to make extra markings since these may be read by the machine as a vote for another candidate if you happen to put the extra marks on an oval.

It is very important not to make any extra mark on the barcodes found on the bottom and sides of the ballot. As Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said: “Respect the ballot. Don’t deface it!”

Do not over vote. Vote only for the prescribed number of candidates per position as indicated in the ballot under the heading for each position. Vote for one president and one vice president. For senators, the ballot will indicate that 12 senators is the maximum one can vote for. If you vote for 13 candidates, the machine will not count your votes for senators. It will, however, still count your votes for the other positions as long as you do not over vote.

What if you vote for less than 12 senators? That is acceptable, as the machine will count those candidates that you voted for.

Remember that there is only one ballot per voter. You cannot ask for a new ballot if you make a mistake, so please vote carefully. It is a good idea to make your choices beforehand and bring a list with you. This will greatly reduce your chances of making an error.

After voting, go straight to the PCOS machine and feed your ballot into the machine. The ballot can be inserted face up or face down, top first or bottom first. Before inserting your ballot, it is a good idea to check the vote counter found on the bottom right side of the machine’s screen. This ballot counter indicates how many ballots were already inserted into the machine. This number should increase by one once your ballot is accepted. If your ballot is accepted, it will enter the machine’s feeding slot and fall into the ballot box placed directly under the PCOS machine.

It is possible that the machine will spit out or reject a ballot. It will do this for several reasons: the ballot is a duplicate, the ballot was previously inserted in the PCOS machine, the ballot’s barcode was covered by markings and could not be read by the machine, or the ballot was creased and read by the machine as an extra marking. If your ballot is rejected, you have one more chance to reinsert it. If your ballot is again rejected, bring this to the attention of the BEI chairman, who will then mark this as a rejected ballot. Unfortunately, no replacement ballot will be given to you.

After voting, the ballot secrecy folder and marker pen should be returned to the BEI chairman. He will then stain your right index finger or any other finger as an indication that you have already voted.

Congratulations! You have just participated in the country’s first automated election.

Remember: you have one vote, use it wisely! You have one ballot, fill it up carefully!

Editor’s 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 citizen’s 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 starweek.events@gmail.com.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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