REJECTION of ballots and slow voting time were among the glitches the Commission on Elections uncovered as it held mock elections in 20 areas across the nation, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista reported Saturday.
Consequently, Bautista said the poll body may decide not to use the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) feature of the vote counting machines which allows a voter to check his ballot before it is counted, but also slows down the voting process.
“We will not activate the tape receipt. What I said before, there are more disadvantages than advantages,” Bautista said after he observed the mock elections in some places in Metro Manila.
But the poll chief said the Comelec is still discussing whether to activate a feature where the voter can visually review their votes on the voting machine screen before these are electronically counted.
“But the problem in having a screen is the time and the privacy. People will be able to see [the casted votes],” Bautista said.
Bautista said the poll body initially estimated that it would take three to five minutes for most voters to complete their ballots and the mock poll showed that some even casted their votes faster than three minutes.
But in one instance, at the Baseco Compound in Tondo, one voter took 11 minutes to cast his vote.
“We noticed that the first voter took close to 11 minutes to vote. That’s a little long,” Bautista said, noting, however, that others were much faster.
A more serious concern, Bautista said, was the rejection of ballots in some of the 40 polling precincts in 20 areas where the mock elections were held.
At the Ramon Magsaysay Elementary School, the voting machine rejected three ballots because an election inspector exceeded the space allocated for his signature
At the Surallah Elementary School in Sultan Kudarat, a voting machine rejected a ballot six times, according to the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) which also monitored the mock election.
Bautista said the poll body will investigate the incidents of ballot rejection, but it appeared connected to the errors that were found in the source code of the vote-counting machines.
Unfortunately, rejected ballots will not be replaced with another ballot because each one has a specific identification number.
In Kalibo, Aklan, the operation of the VCM was also affected by low power voltage and slow Internet connection.
But Bautista did not linger too much on the glitches and instead made a pitch for providing more convenient polling places, like in shopping malls.
“Now we see the difference between voting in a public school and inside a shopping mall. You can see that it’s more convenient,” Bautista said.
“We should use our new technology by using our modern-day convenience so, like what I’ve been saying, it will be a faster and more convenient voting experience,” Bautista said, noting that there was a low turnout of voters in some precincts.
Meanwhile, Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III said the Comelec still has time to find feasible solutions to address the glitches in the voting system.
“The Comelec has still 86 days to fix the software problems in the automated voting system that Filipino voters will use in May 9 elections,” Albano said.
“It is not yet too late for the poll body to do something to address these issues to strengthen the public’s trust and reaffirm its commitment that a no-election scenario won’t happen because we have credible, honest and accurate voting machines,” he added. With Maricel V. Cruz
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