February 27, 2024

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E-Voting Proposed for Elections in the Philippines

Automated elections are cost-effective because they can accommodate up to 1,000 voters per clustered precinct instead of 500 voters per precinct in manual ballots, necessitating paying more workers. Therefore, Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr. of Cavite 4th District advised his colleagues in the House of Representatives to employ the Automated Elections System (AES) in the Barangay (village) and local council Sangguniang Kabataan (BSK) elections on October 30 this year.

In House Resolution 717, which he submitted on Wednesday, Barzaga asked the House Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms to launch an investigation into the Electoral Reform Act. The viability and feasibility of executing automated BSK polls are discussed.

“It will not only result in faster outcomes and the announcement of victors, but it will also eliminate human involvement or error and confusion in the evaluation of ballots on an experimental basis on the BSK Elections in major barangays, ideally in Metro Manila,” he convinced.

There are 42,022 barangays in the country as of October 2022, each with one punong barangay (local official) and seven Sangguniang Barangay (village council) members, one SK chairperson and seven representatives.

There will be two polls for the BSK elections, one for ordinary voters aged 18 and above and another for SK electors aged 15 to 30. The lawmakers suggested repurposing and adjusting the existing Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) to accept two ballots from registered voters. Then, the devices can independently summarise the Barangay and SK elections’ scores.

The BSKE, scheduled for October this year, will use a manual election system in which voters will write the names of candidates on ballots. Historically, manual elections can encounter issues such as imprecise counting, perception, and appreciation of votes. The integration of votes in larger Barangays usually takes two to three days, as opposed to automated elections, which immediately transmit the results to the canvassing centre upon closing of the voting.

Barzaga stated that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) was praised for conducting the national and municipal polls on May 9, 2022, for having the fastest results and largest voter turnout since the Philippines adopted the AES in 2010, and that the public has accepted the outcomes of the elections. The 2022 national and municipal elections were attended by 55,290,821, or 84.10 per cent of the 67,745,526 registered voters.

The resolution also said that the Comelec owned the 97,000 reconditioned vote-counting machines (VCMs) it purchased in 2016 and leased more VCMs for the 2022 elections and that a portion of these machines will be used in the BSK Elections in the pilot barangays. Barzaga believes voters are well-versed in using AES since The Philippines have used the technology in the national and municipal elections in 2010, 2013, 2016, 2019, and 2022.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has indicated that it is open to holding automated village votes. Comelec chairperson George Erwin Garcia noted that they would investigate the possibility of executing a pilot test of barangay and SK election automation in specific areas/precincts. He mentioned that Barzaga contacted him about the proposition earlier this week.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. signed Republic Act 11935 on October 10, 2022, rescheduling December 5, 2022, BSK elections to October 30, 2023, and holding other polls every three years after that. Meanwhile, earlier this month, OFW Party List Rep. Marissa Magsino suggested that the government should change the existing law to increase voting options to prevent voter disenfranchisement of about 1.83 million OFWs exercising their right to vote. The proposed legislation would enable Filipino personnel working abroad to vote via email, web-based portals, and other internet-based technologies.

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