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Automation requires new poll watching methods

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 20:58:00 06/12/2009

Filed Under: Elections, Technology (general)

MANILA, Philippines?An automated election will require new methods of poll watching, a poll watchdog said.

?Poll automation is a new system of electing our national and local leaders and it requires a new system of guarding the elections?from start to finish,? said Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) chairperson Henrietta de Villa.

She said PPCRV and the Namfrel is already planning to deploy five poll watchers that will watch the whole process from start to finish.

Namfrel and PPCRV have been involved in quick counts or running tally of candidate votes based on cumulative information of Election Results (ERs) from different poll watchdog volunteers deployed in polling precincts nationwide.

These poll watchdogs have deployed volunteers to watch the manual tallying and counting of votes in poll precincts and the transfer of ballots from polling precincts to municipal board of canvassers.

?Automation renders quick counts obsolete with the results out in just two days after the Election Day. In the same manner, poll watching must evolve to fit the new system of election that we will implement in 2010,? she added.

Taking lessons from the 2008 automated elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, De Villa said PPCRV and Namfrel will deploy at least two technical and IT experts in 80,000 poll precincts for the May 2010 elections that can help troubleshoot poll machines should a technical problem occur.

?We did an experiment in the 2008 ARMM elections and we found it successful to have deployed a technical expert in one of the central poll precincts who helped fix the technical glitch. We will do this for the 2010 elections and we will train them to get this expertise,? said De Villa.

De Villa said PPCRV and Namfrel is also forming a group of poll watchers for accountable material verifiable audit trail (AMVAT). The group will guard the printing, packaging and delivery of ballot papers to polling precincts from the municipal treasurer's office, she added.

PPCRV and Namfrel AMVAT volunteers will be tasked to guard the municipal treasurer's office ballot papers and other election materials, as well as ensure that the exact number of supplies is delivered to its designated municipalities and precincts without tampering.

Another group will guard the final testing and sealing of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines prior to Election Day. PCOS will be used to automate the counting of votes, generation of ERs and electronic transmission of consolidated voting data to Comelec-designated servers.

At close of polls, the ERs and consolidated voting data are electronically transmitted to Comelec servers. The PPCRV and Namfrel poll watchers will now have more specific schedules to crosscheck the transmitted voting data for specific national candidates.

Before, poll watchers randomly visited precincts to check the manual vote counting per contest.

In place of performing quick counts, at least two poll watchers will be deployed in a precinct to crosscheck that transmitted voting results and printed ERs that summarizes the voting data per candidate in a precinct and related logs of the poll machine, said De Villa.

De Villa said the poll watchdog will have three copies of the ERs to be used in validating and ensuring that the transmitted ER data are consistent with the printed ERs posted at the doors of polling precincts.

Based on provisions of the poll automation law, PPCRV and Namfrel will get at least two copies of the 30 ERs printed by the poll machines at close of polls.

As an accredited citizen's arm for the elections, the poll watchdog will also receive electronically transmitted voting results, De Villa added.

?PPCRV-Namfrel will have all three copies of results?two printed ERs nd electronic data from the Comelec-designated server?to check for patterns of tampering and to validate if the results transmitted and posted at doors of precincts were clean and authentic,? said De Villa.

?As political watchdog and citizens of the Philippines, PPCRV-Namfrel will carefully watch the whole election process?from the procurement of machines until the announcement of results and winners. We hope the 2010 elections will be historic as we have clean, honest, accurate, meaningful and peaceful elections,? said De Villa.

?No matter how advanced the technology is, the important and vital factor in any election are the citizens who will guard their votes and democracy,? she said.

PPCRV and Namfrel were among the official observers during the bidding of the poll automation project, which was bagged by bidder consortium Smartmatic-Total Information Management.



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