Tuesday, 28 July 2009

HK, LA, Rome, Dubai automated polls mulled

By Anna Valmero

MANILA, Philippines — Following a similar recommendation of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Commission on Elections is studying the possibility of automating next year’s elections in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Rome, and Dubai, it was learned Monday.

Initially, the DFA, which conducts the elections overseas, proposed automated elections in eight areas, or in two areas from the four regions of Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe, and Middle East. But the poll body halved the target to one area per region to make the project “more workable,” Comelec executive director Jose Tolentino said in an interview.

Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer, who supervises overseas voting, confirmed the plan and said his office “is exploring the possibility of automating the OAV elections in at least one or up to four areas as pilot test. At the very least, we are looking to automate OAV polls in Hong Kong.”

“We are still talking with the provider Smartmatic-TIM for this project since the P7.2 billion nationwide automation does not cover absentee voting,” Ferrer said.

The four possible pilot-test areas were chosen based on the high turnout of voter applicants and the ease of implementing it there, according to Glinis Tamondong, officer of the Comelec’s Commission on OAV (COAV).

“Dubai was chosen over Riyadh in Saudi Arabia, which has ‘stricter implementation rules,’” Tamondong said.

As of July 24, she said, Hong Kong has 15,240 OAV registrants, Los Angeles 8,612, Rome 1,563, and Dubai 8,182 applicants.

Tamondong said the DFA and the COAV are still discussing the proposal, particularly the estimated P52-million cost for automating the elections in these four areas.

She explained that the expense is quite high because “under the law, absentee voters are given 30 days to cast their votes. So if we automate this, we will have a 30-day operation starting from April 10, 2010 until the close of polls on May 10, 2010 at 6 p.m.”

Comelec and DFA will meet in August to finalize the proposal, said Tamondong.

For the rest of the overseas absentee voters using the manual system, certificates of canvass will be sent to Comelec main office to be included in the final canvassing. The machines for canvassing and vote consolidation must also read these manually prepared certificates of canvass.

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