Monday, January 18, 2010

Know your ballot

Ballot-FrontI was invited to attend the Bagong Botante event last November 13 together with other bloggers. This was an event I was itching to go to because I wanted to see with my own eyes the counting machine and the ballot to be used in the coming 2010 elections. Yes, I had a lot of questions.
COMELEC and Smartmatic people came out in full force. Among those in the crowd were COMELEC spokesperson James Jimenez, Cesar Flores (President, Smartmatic-Asia Pacific Region), Rafael Cuenca (Smartmatic Voter Education Website Coordinator), Gene Gregorio (Smartmatic Spokesman & PR Manager) and Miguel Avila (also with Smartmatic).
If you’re one of those voting for the first time and you're wondering whether voting is going to be complicated, or if you have some skepticism about the ballot’s being secure, I’ll let you in on some of the things I learned about the ballot that night.
What the Ballot Looks Like
The ballot is still in paper form just like the old ballot we are used to. But it now looks more professional and is roughly the size of an A4 sheet of paper. The names of the candidates running for national positions are printed back-to-back. Here is a sample of the ballot.
(Ballot - Front - Click to enlarge)
(Ballot - Back - Click to enlarge)
How To Fill out the Ballot
It’s a lot easier to fill out the ballot now because there is no need to write names. All we have to do is shade the oval beside our candidate of choice.
We also do not need to bring pencils or ballpens. COMELEC-provided markers will be available at the precincts.
To vote, just shade the oval completely right beside the name of your selected candidate. It’s just like coloring the oval. Simple.

Important Do’s and Don’ts
There are a few things to remember so as not to invalidate your vote and to minimize inconveniences to you.

  1. Shade the oval completely. Marking it with a dot, X, a line or any other mark is NOT VALID. Partial shading also may risk invalidation as it won’t be properly read by the machine.

  2. Do not OVERVOTE. This means you should NOT vote more candidates than available positions. For example, there should be only ONE Presidential vote. If you shaded 2 or more names, your vote for President is invalidated. (Note: only the section with overvoting is invalidated. The other parts of your ballot remain valid as long as you shaded the right number of candidate names for the position).

  3. You can UNDERVOTE. This means you can vote for LESS candidates than available positions. For example, if you need to choose 12 senators but you only opt to vote for 10, that is allowed.

  4. It is better to go to the precinct with your list of chosen candidates already (codigo). This will speed up the time it will take for you to fill up your ballot and reduce chances of mistakes.
Casting Your Vote
You will cast your own vote. It’s simple. Just hold the ballot in your hand and feed it into the machine vertically. Just imagine that it’s just like inserting an ATM card into the machine or feeding paper into a fax machine.
It does not matter whether you feed it in top first or bottom first. Or back on top, or front on top. However way you put it in, the counting machine takes a snapshot of both the top and bottom sides so you are sure your ballot has a captured image (front and back).
Security Features of the Ballot
This was one area I was concerned about so it was interesting to discover that:
  1. Position identifiers on the left and right sides of the ballot help locate the ovals for proper counting and evaluation.
(Click to enlarge)
  1. Each ballot has a unique bar code. Once the machine reads a ballot’s bar code, any attempt to insert a duplicate ballot with the same code will be rejected.
(Click to enlarge)
  1. Each ballot is marked with UV ink which is not readily discernible. The counting machine looks first for this mark before it counts a vote. This dispels the possibility of photocopied ballots which obviously won’t have the UV ink mark.
  2. The ballot contains security markings (i.e., watermarks).
Two videos, Quick Guide to the Automated Elections and 2010 Election Voting Machine Info can be viewed HERE.

As of now, while many of my questions about the counting machine and ballots were answered at the event, I am still uneasy about the adequacy of the remaining time left before the May elections for everything to be put in place.
Finding enough IT personnel to man ALL the precincts, training the teachers on the operational procedures, delivering the machines/ballots/indelible ink/markers/etc to all the precincts in time – all these are just some of the things still in my head.
I am hoping though that these will be satisfactorily answered in the coming weeks so that we are all reassured that come election day, there will be no snafus like the confusion and inefficiencies that many people experienced during the recent voter registration.

You might also want to read on How to Vote in an Automated Election.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

How to vote in an Automated Election

Screen capture from Yahoo SEA video.
Read this first: Know your ballot
Know the Automated Election Machine and the Source Code.
New and old voters might be a little intimidated by the fancy technology used for the 2010 Presidential elections. However, the new automated process is being employed for quick, easy, and transparent counting that should minimize fraud. Hopefully, this quick guide on how to vote in an automated election will make the procedure less confusing for you. Before reading the rest of the article, take time to  know your ballot and Know the Automated Election Machine and How to find online your precint before election day.
Step 1- Go to your precinct on May 10
There will be about 37,062 voting centers and 74,427 clustered precincts. Each clustered precinct will have one Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine, each of which can supposedly accommodate up to 1,000 voters. Read on How to find online your precint before election day.
Upon arriving at the precinct, a voter should look for his or her name at the Posted Computerized Voters List (PCVL) near the door of the voting center to determine his or her precinct number and sequence number. The voter will be instructed to give these pieces of information to the Bureau of Election Inspector (BEI) together with other personal information.
Make sure you bring your voter’s ID with you. If you don’t have one yet, bring any valid ID along with your registration stub.

STEP 2- Get your identity verified
After his or her identity is verified, the name of the voter will be read out loud to give chance for any contention. If uncontested, he or she will be given a ballot by the BEI chairman – only upon ensuring that the said voter has yet to cast his or her vote in another precinct.

STEP 3- How to use your ballot
Take a look on how the ballot looks like first..ballot-sample

Listen to the BEI's instruction on how to fill the ballot. The voter will be instructed to fill out his or her ballot using a secrecy folder and a marking pen provided by the Comelec. He or she must fill out the ballot by fully shading at least 50 percent of the oval beside the names of the candidates and party-list group of his or her choice. View sample ballot
  1. Every voter gets only ONE ballot. No replacement ballots will be given to voters who make a mistake.
  2. Make sure the ballot you receive has no marks and is otherwise clean.
  3. Each ballot comes with the name of the candidates. To the left of the candidates are ovals. Simply shade the oval next to the name of the chosen candidate.
  4. The oval must be shaded COMPLETELY. Ballots with check marks, x marks, partially shaded ovals, and other marks will be regected.
  5. Do not over-vote (e.g. vote two candidates for the position of President) because this will invalidate your votes for the position (but not the whole ballot).
  6. You can bring a sheet of your chosen candidates with you when you vote.
Comelec devised a way to make the ballots easier to read (see sample above)
The ballot will be divided into sections that will be delineated by a colored border. The sections will be colored blue for president, vice president, congressmen, provincial governor, and councilors; and green for senators, party-list groups, provincial board members, and municipal mayors.
STEP 4- Feed your ballot to the PCOS
Get to Know the Automated Election Machine
PCOS stands for Precinct Count Optical Scan. This is a paper-based technology that contains pre-programmed information on the location, number of voters, etc. Each precinct will have one PCOS. Voters themselves feed their ballot into the machine. The machine will scan both sides of the ballot and will reject invalid ballots that are fake, photocopied, or have been previously inserted.
Once you have accomplished your ballot, feed the ballot into the PCOS. Every voter must personally feed his or her ballot into the machine. Wait for the confirmation message to appear on the screen.
Wait until the ballot is dropped into the semi-transparent ballot box. If the ballot is rejected, the BEI will allow for another re-entry, but if rejected again, the voter will not be issued a replacement ballot.
the voter should return the secrecy folder and marking pen to the BEI chairman.
STEP 5 Go to the BEI for indelible inking
The BEI chairman will in turn apply indelible ink at the base and extend it to the cuticle of the right forefinger nail of the voter, who will then be instructed to affix his or her thumbmark in the space in the Election Day Computerized Voters List (EDCVL).
Just familiarize yourself with the steps and by viewing the video so you have an idea on how the process is like.
Help keep Philippine Elections clean
Philippine elections are characterized by vote-buying, intimidation, coercion, and terrorism. With many voters casting ballots with illegible handwriting and a procedure with weak security, it's easy to tamper election results and commit fraud. Hopefully the new automated system will eliminate all of these. It also helps if voters remain vigilant, cooperative, and coordinated during Election Day. Vote wisely. Choose your candidate based on coherent platform, character and competency.

Few Filipinos know little of automated polls

Even as 61 percent of Filipinos know little about the automated election system, almost half (49 percent) believe that there will be much trouble in the country if the May 10, 2010 elections will not push through, according to an independent survey.

These are two of the conclusions of a nationwide survey conducted by Pulse Asia between October 22 and 30 among 1,800 respondents with a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percent.

Despite this ignorance of the new way of voting, 40 percent think that automating the counting of the votes will result in clean elections with credible results. Only 16 percent believe otherwise. The rest (43 percent) are undecided about the effects of poll automation.

At the same time, it said: “The prevailing sentiment among Filipinos is that it is highly likely that the May 2010 polls will be held as scheduled [67 percent].”

The same survey concluded that 64 percent of Filipinos believe that the country’s public school teachers will perform their duties as members of the board of election inspectors, with 65 percent believing that the same teachers are capable of managing the automated polls this year.
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