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Sharp Edges

‘Smartmagic’ in May polls?

With Holy Week over, the unholy election cheaters and manipulators are back at their dirty work, prompting voters to ask, will we have accurate vote counting this time?

Will “renegade” vote counting machines (VCMs) resurface and transmit “invented” results to the main server of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)? Are the “source codes” safe and hack-proof?

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So far, we’ve heard Comelec bragging about the 82 “enhancements” done to 91,000 VCMs bought from Smartmatic in 2016. Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casuejo says these new features are part of their conditions for a more “secure and efficient” elections.

He says most of the changes are based on the recommendations of political parties, civil society groups and individuals who conducted reviews of the source codes. In fact, Comelec showed 11 source codes to assert total transparency in the electoral process.

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From my viewpoint, what is very crucial here is the simultaneous saving of data by both memory cards in the precinct’s VCM and the server of the Automated Election System, a feature that was not available in the 2016 polls.

This means “results data” from the polling station to the central server can be made public or available online.

Finally, Comelec allowed local source code reviewers from political parties and interested groups to scrutinize the “cue server” for the transmission of election results. This ensures the delivery of vote results in a secure and efficient manner through a transparent election transmission process that will disallow “interference” or outside data from renegade VCMs.

Let’s give credit to the quiet and nonflamboyant management style of new Comelec chair Sheriff Abas and Casuejo. This is a great start, but the nation will still be closely watching.

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I think people are relying less and less on the election surveys coming from Social Weather Stations (SWS) and Pulse Asia.

The actual results are very, very different from preelection surveys. I remember SWS predicting during the 2004 presidential race that actor Fernando Poe Jr. would lose in Metro Manila but the results proved otherwise.

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In 2016, Joel “Tesdaman” Villanueva was 14th in Pulse Asia’s final survey of “winnable” senatorial candidates. He came in eighth in the one conducted by SWS. But when the votes were tallied after the elections, he ended up in the second spot, with around 100,000 votes separating him from the topnotcher.

There was also former Senator Serge Osmeña who was consistently within the top 10 circle of senatorial bets in preelection surveys in 2016. But he lost and blamed Comelec, Smartmatic and a former commissioner, claiming eight winning senators bought their “slots” for P50 million each.

Serious questions are now being raised about SWS and Pulse Asia’s use of “probability-based sampling” in selecting 1,800 respondents, plus a margin of error greater than one percent. Worldwide, the more credible but more expensive method is “stratified sampling.”

There are also persistent rumors about some candidates being approached and asked if they wanted to improve their positions in the surveys. Both polling firms, of course, denied the allegation.

The highly questionable “probability sampling method,” however, can really be manipulated and become open to “negotiations.”

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Tune in to the “Banner Story” radio-TV show, Monday-Friday, 6-9 a.m., on dzIQ (990AM), ABS-CBN TV Plus Channel 30. E-mail [email protected] for comments.

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TAGS: 2019 elections, Jake J. Maderazo, Sharp Edges
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