Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Comelec bares poll automation plans

Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
http://technology.inquirer.net/infotech/infotech/view/20090202-187041/Comelec-bares-poll-automation-plans

MANILA, Philippines-- The Commission on Elections (Comelec) plans to use the supplemental budget to lease precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines, a poll official said as he explained the plan for the local and national elections in 2010.

The PCOS machines will be deployed in 80,000 clustered precincts nationwide, said Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino Jr. in an interview.

Tolentino said each clustered precinct will have one PCOS machine, which can accommodate up to 1,000 voters.

To maximize the use of each machine, the poll body is planning to extend voting hours from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m., the poll executive said. Comelec is also setting up computer servers to handle the canvassing and consolidation of results from the voting precincts.

Tolentino said that once a precinct has the final voting results, the PCOS machine will transmit the voting results to the Comelec main office, which houses the “consolidation servers,” while also providing copies to the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, the dominant majority and minority parties and an appointed citizen's arm.

The official said this system will discourage premature announcement of winners because the results are immediately known to the public.

Counting of votes in every precinct will only start after the closing of polls at 6 p.m. Once the voting results are certified by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), the PCOS machine will start transmitting the results.

Tolentino said the system will not allow second transmission or consolidation of results at the precinct level. This will eliminate multiple canvassing and proclamation.

After the Comelec main office receives the final tally of the precinct results, the board of canvassers from the municipality, city or province can retrieve the voting results from the consolidation servers of the poll body, Tolentino said.

Once voting results of a province are in, the national board of canvassers can retrieve results, Tolentino said.

Results can be posted as running total of votes per candidate at the Comelec website, which would allow the public to view the results immediately.

He said that the system requires that the chairman of each precinct and the board of canvasser's unit will hold a “smart key” for retrieving specified voting results from the consolidation servers, said Tolentino.

The chairman of each municipal and provincial election board offices will also hold the key.

The smart key has encrypted biometrics information, which will serve as an identification of the municipal or provincial canvassing board officer.

Tolentino said there are three paper trails in the proposed automation plan. This includes the marked ballot by the voter, scanned or digital image of the marked ballot taken by the PCOS machine and the stored data of the voting results in the precinct machine.

In his presentation of the automation plan to the Senate committee on Finance, Tolentino added the Comelec proposes to have a total of six personnel for the Board of Election Inspectors.

In the past elections, the BEI is composed of a chairman, a poll clerk and a third member.

With the automation plan, there will three additional support staff to the chairman, poll clerk and a third member, the Comelec plan showed.

During Monday’s public hearing, Senator Edgardo Angara, chairman of the finance committee, requested the Comelec to provide a breakdown of the supplemental budget for poll automation plan.

Currently, Senate Bill (SB) 2984 authored by Angara and SB 3021 by Senator Richard Gordon seek to authorize a supplemental budget of P11.3 billion for the automation of the 2010 elections. Both bills are slated for a second public hearing next week.

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