Comelec to lease 98,000 vote counting machines
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking to lease, not purchase, 98,000 faulty vote counting machines (VCMs) it plans to discard by the 2025 midterm elections. But at a press conference during the first day of the three-day National Election Summit, Comelec Chair George Garcia said the best approach was to lease the equipment because it is cheaper and the poll body does not have a warehouse for the new machines. “We will have to change the machines, but [we have to figure out] what system and if there’s an available budget,” he told reporters. The elections chief said that if the problem is not addressed soon, “no one will take the blame, but us … [the VCMs] are already embarrassing … They’re still working, but you have to bang the machine for them to work,” he said. The Comelec plans to come up with terms of reference for the purchase of new machines by the end of April so it can award the contract by January. In 2016, the Comelec leased 97,354 VCMs from election technology firm Smartmatic. These were later bought in 2018. But the commission only refurbished the machines for the 2022 polls due to “lack of budget,” said Garcia. In last year’s May 9 elections, 1,867 VCMs were reported to have malfunctioned, including paper jams, rejected ballots, faulty scanners, printers with no output and printers not printing properly. —KATHLEEN DE VILLA
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