Thursday, 21 January 2010

Poll machines to undergo lab, field tests starting Thursday


The electronic machines that will be used in the May elections will undergo a series of laboratory and field tests to ensure their efficiency in counting votes, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said the "end-to-end" lab tests of 75 units of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines would be conducted from January 21 to 25 at the warehouse of poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM in Cabuyao, Laguna.

Larrazabal said the Comelec would follow " test (the) accuracy, security, and functionality of the system." Also involved in the tests are representatives from Smartmatic-TIM and the Department of Science and Technology.

Among the devices that will be used during the tests are blank laptop computers or those with only the operating system and Web browser on their hard drives, as well as blank poll machines that will be installed with the needed computer software, according to Larrazabal.

Also during the tests, ballots will be filled out and will be counted manually. The ballots will then be fed into the poll machines to test if these would be able to accurately count the votes and transmit data.

Meanwhile, the simultaneous field tests of 10 other PCOS units will be conducted nationwide on January 27. Larrazabal said the tests would be done to show the public that the automated voting system would work not only in the urban centers, but in rural areas as well.

The tests will be conducted in the following areas: National Capital Region (in Pateros town and Taguig City); Luzon (in Bakun town in Benguet province); Visayas (in Naga City and Cebu province); and Mindanao (in Lake Cebu town in South Cotabato province).

One PCOS unit will be tested in every area, according to Larrazabal.

Mock elections will also be held on February 6. "We will be conducting mock election the field...not in controlled environment (with the) actual conditions on election day," the Comelec commissioner said.

Meanwhile, Larrazabal said the certifications of the computer software and the hardware that would be used in the May polls were still being processed in Colorado.

The poll machine supplier was supposed to initially deliver 42,200 PCOS units last November. However, the schedule of delivery was moved to December. At the end of the year, only 7,200 units were delivered due to costly shipping and traffic problems, according to the Comelec.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said Smartmatic-TIM had since committed to deliver about 9,600 machines weekly.

The Comelec expects to have in its custody 50,000 PCOS machines by the end of this week, according to Melo. He assured the public that all the 82,200 PCOS machines needed for the May polls should have been manufactured and delivered by February. All the machines will be tested by the Comelec.

The poll body chief said that as stated in their contract with Smartmatic-TIM, the consortium should deliver all the poll machines before February 28.

The supplier will be forced to pay a P7.5-million fine for every single day it misses the deadline, said Larrazabal.

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