Kontra Daya: It’s voters’ right to make sure their choices count
MANILA, Philippines—When vote-counting machines (VCMs) break down, voters should have the option to wait and should not be deprived of the right to check if their votes were counted or not.
This was stressed by election watchdog Kontra Daya as Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner George Garcia said voters have “no choice” but leave their ballots to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) when VCMs crash.
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However, while voters have the option to allow the BEIs feed their ballots by signing a waiver when VCMs break down, ideally, voters should be the ones to do so and may decide to wait for the VCM to get fixed or replaced.
Kontra Daya said it already received eight reports on incidents regarding VCM breakdowns, saying that in most of the incidents, voters were told to leave their ballots to the BEIs:
- Barangay San Bartolome Elementary School, Quezon City (Precinct No. 1572)
- Tandang Sora Elementary School, Quezon City (Precinct No. 1806)
- Don Quintin Paredes High School, Quezon City
- Horacio Dela Costa High School, Quezon City (Precinct No. 1479A)
Crashing VCMs likewise resulted in longer lines—Barangay Holy Spirit (Precinct Nos. 1283, 1284 and 1285) and Project 3 Elementary School in Quezon City (Precinct No. 772); Macario Sakay National High School, Caloocan City (Precinct No. 1789D); and Adelina 1 Complex Elementary School, San Pedro, Laguna.
In Pili, Camarines Sur, as the VCM in Precinct No. 13 rejected ballots, voters were told that they may leave their shaded ballots and that they can return if they would like to feed them into the VCM themselves.
INQUIRER.net learned that some voters, like 58-year-old Mariet Gulpay, stressed that they will wait for the VCM to get fixed because they have to be vigilant: “It’s alright if we have to wait. What is important is that we will be the one to cast our votes”.
The Comelec said on Monday (May 9) that some 1,800 VCMs have crashed but the issues have already been resolved. Garcia said these were the common problems that the VCMs had:
- Paper jam: 940
- Rejected ballots: 606
- VCM scanner: 158
- VCM printer not printing: 87
- VCM not printing properly: 76
In 2019, the Comelec said 961 VCMs and 1,665 SD cards had glitches as Filipinos cast their votes for the midterm elections. It was 1.1 percent of 85,000 VCMs and 1.9 percent of 1,665 SD cards.
Kontra Daya, however, stressed that the VCMs for the 2022 elections are “not generally brand new,” saying that these have been used in past elections.
“This is a crucial assessment point. The role of Smartmatic since 2010 should take center stage as we make sense of what went wrong,” it said.
Extend voting hours
With VCM breakdowns and the longer time required to vote because of COVID-19 restrictions, Kontra Daya said there is a high possibility that many voters would not be able to vote by 7 p.m., the time polling precincts are supposed to close.
This was the reason that it asked the Comelec to extend the voting hours beyond 7 p.m., saying that “extending voting hours can help prevent disenfranchisement.”
There are 65,709,572 domestic registered voters for the 2022 elections and there are 106,174 domestic precincts with one VCM each. There is an average of 619 voters in every precinct.
“This gives us an idea of potential disenfranchisement due to VCM issues,” Kontra Daya said.
It stressed that the 1,800 VCMs that have crashed already translates to 1.1 million possibly affected voters, or two percent of the registered voters: “This is a substantial number especially for electoral races that are tightly contested.”
“Already, Kontra Daya has received reports of voters going home after being unable to wait due to long lines or the arrival of replacement machines. This is a clear case of voter disenfranchisement,” it said.
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