Monday, 12 January 2009

Philippine switch to poll automation irreversible

Written by TJ Agcaoili
The Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=4407:budget-ok-makes-automated-2010-elections-irreversible&catid=23:topnews&Itemid=58

THE approval by Congress of the multibillion-peso budget for poll automation in 2010 ensures the use of optical mark reader (OMR) and direct recording electronic (DRE) voting machines, raising hopes of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) that the polls will be clean and orderly.

This is what James Jimenez, Comelec director for education and Information, told a weekend forum in Manila, adding, “An automated election system is irreversible. Definitely, no manual [system], as we have to move forward.”

He said that bidding for the voting machines and technologies may be held in February or March.

The OMR requires voters to fill out a paper ballot that is then counted by a special machine, as opposed to the DRE which allows voters to use a touch screen or touch pad and records the individual votes and totals.

Jimenez said last week’s Social Weather Stations survey showed 92 percent of Filipinos support an automated election system because they believe it would eliminate massive poll cheating.

He said automated elections using the OMR and DRE systems succeeded on August 11 last year in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). “It is fast and we can hold a proclamation immediately, and there were no election protests in the last ARRM polls.”

The use of the machines that he mentioned has, however, elicited strong protests from many sectors and individuals, such as Sens. Loren Legarda and Richard Gordon, owing to possible faults in the hardware and software of these systems, as indicated by problems during the pilot use of the systems in the ARMM.

Jimenez acknowledged the Comelec must consider the objections and other factors. “We have biometrics and others, but if we do not have matching systems, we have to use alternative ways. What is important is that we must achieve the one voter, one vote paradigm.”

“I heard Senator Legarda is concerned with the garbage in, garbage out [issue]. She wants that the voters’ list be cleaned and we are working on the concern raised by the senator,” he said.

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