A congressional leader on Friday filed a bill calling for early voting for senior citizens and people with disability in future elections beginning with the May 9, 2022 presidential-congressional-local balloting.
Deputy Majority Leader and Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo filed House Bill 8756, saying “It is safe to assume that the pandemic will still be here during the election period. Thus, it is important for Congress and the Commission on Elections to take measures to help health authorities prevent the spread of Covid-19 among voters and the population in general.”
She said one such measure is to allow senior citizens and PWDs to vote early because they are among the sectors most vulnerable to Covid-19.
“They should be given the chance to cast their ballots without compromising their physical health and safety. Otherwise, thousands might just opt not to vote for fear of contracting the virus,” she said.
Castelo said the state “must do everything to protect the right of suffrage and to make sure that everyone will have the opportunity to exercise such right.”
She called for expeditious action on her proposal, since the Comelec “is now in the thick of preparations for next year’s elections, which are just 14 months away, and the nation will soon be on election mode.”
Under the bill, the Comelec must schedule early voting for senior citizens and PWDs in pre-designated venues easily accessible to such voters within seven working days before the elections.
All senior citizens and PWDs who are registered voters shall qualify for early voting. However, the Comelec may undertake online pre-registration for the sole purpose of estimating the number of voters who want to avail themselves of advance voting.
The Comelec would be mandated to conduct a nationwide campaign to inform target voters of their option to cast their votes ahead of the elections.
The poll body, in coordination with other concerned government agencies, will issue the implementing rules and regulations.
Expenses for early voting are to be charged against the current Comelec budget. Thereafter, these are to be included in the commission’s annual budget proposal to be submitted to the Department of Budget and Management and Congress.