Filipino voters have expressed an increasing preference for the automated election system because of the credibility, transparency, accuracy and speed of releasing the results over the past four elections, according to two political scientists.
In an assessment of the “credibility” of the 2019 mid-term elections presented during the Stratbase ADR Institute virtual town hall discussion on “Democracy Goes On: Elections & Electoral Continuity Post-COVID-19”, Ador R. Torneo and Topin S. Ruiz of the Department of Political Science at De La Salle University said their “study has determined that the 2019 mid-term election can be considered as credible and well-run based on several factors.”
The 2019 mid-term election was the fourth automated election held in the country since technology provider Smartmatic won the bidding held by the Comelec following the enactment of Republic Act 8436, or the Automated Election System Law in 2007. The Philippines became the first country in Asia to hold a nationwide automated election in 2010.
“The automation of elections has improved the transparency of certain aspects of the electoral process. Having transparent elections means that the electorate has access to processes and information,” the authors of the study said.
The study notes that since the 2010 elections, the Comelec’s performance using the automated system has consistently improved.
“The latest available data on the 2019 mid-term elections to the data compared with the 2016, 2013 and 2010 elections shows improving Comelec performance over time,” Torneo and Ruiz said in the study.
“The preparations and improvements adopted by Comelec in the system, the technology, the contingency measures and the services appear to be paying off. If the scorecard and the seven indicators is the sole basis, we can objectively say that the 2019 mid-term elections may be the best AES election yet.”
Torneo and Ruiz said that for the 2019 mid-term elections, the Comelec provided at least four means for the public to gain a good understanding of how the system worked. These included mock elections, source-code review, public ballot printing system and the results website.
The authors cited a Pulse Asia survey showing that 89 percent of Filipinos prefer the automated system, a comparable yet increasing trend since the first automated elections in 2010.
In terms of voter satisfaction for the 2019 mid-term elections, 83 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the conduct of the elections. This was relatively consistent with other elections under the AES.
People’s opinion surveys also showed that 84 percent believed that the election results in 2019 were credible, a significant jump from 74 percent in 2016.
“Another indicator is the consistently low number of electoral protests of the automated elections compared to previous elections that used manual counting. There were no electoral protests filed for national positions, and around 30 cases filed for local positions,” the study said.
“Contrary to media hype, the data and reports from PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) and the post-election evaluation of the Comelec (Commission on Elections) show that the election results were accurate. This was verified through random manual audit, independent parallel count and result transmission rate,” the study said.
The authors said the AES guaranteed the transparency and credibility of the election through the digital transmission of results that ensured that ordinary citizens could monitor the canvassing of the votes that would determine the winners of important government seats.
“People’s perceptions expressed increasing preference since the first automated elections,” they said.
“In turn, the administration gained even more political capital as shown by the high approval and trust rating in recent national survey.”
The Comelec’s random manual audit verified the match between the digital results and the manual canvass through the random sampling of precincts and manually cross-checking of votes based on printed election returns. In the 2019 mid-term election, 715 clustered precincts were sampled, and the result was a 99.99 percent match between the automated results and the random manual audit’s data.
“Accuracy is also necessary for people to trust the election. Stakeholders need to be assured that their votes are counted and that the ballots are secure. The election technology used in the AES assures this accuracy through various measures. The digital scanning of the ballot, receipt printing and other security measures secure the votes. Apart from these, various measures are also in place to check the accuracy of the results,” the study said.