MANILA, Philippines ? About 25 million ballots out of the 50 million ballot needed for the May elections have been printed, according to the automation partner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
"We have already printed half of the 50 million special paper ballots for the Philippines? first automated polls,? said Gene Gregorio, spokesman for Smartmatic-Total Information Management.
At a rate of one million ballots printed daily, Gregorio said they expect to finish printing the other 25 million ballots by April 25.
The fifth additional printer, which arrived at the National Printing Office (NPO) on March 20, is fully operational and has been calibrated to print 200,000 ballots per day, said Gregorio.
The NPO is expected to print ballots this week, except on Good Friday (April 2), he added.
Asked of Smartmatic-TIM?s confidence to beat the printing deadline, Gregorio said that ?the printers are running in full capacity and continuously to print ballots for provinces with high voting populations.?
?The first batch of ballots printed were for smaller and far-flung areas and islands, which took time because we need to configure the machines each time we change plates for printing ballots of a new municipality. You have to remember that we have to print 1,600 different ballot types for each municipality and city,? Gregorio said.
?Now that we are printing ballots for bigger provinces, we are having more efficient printing runs because we configure the printers and change the ballot template less often which decreases the lag times in between printing of ballots,? he added.
For the first time on May 10, Filipinos will vote by shading ovals opposite the printed names of candidates on the ballots, instead of writing the names like in the previous manual polls. After filling out the ballots, the voter will feed it to a machine, which will scan the ovals or votes and take a digital image of the ballot as recorded paper trail.
Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM were slammed heavily by critics for their failure to start the ballot printing on time and the delay in the arrival of the machines.