Comelec: Overseas voting via internet to improve turnout, cost

Comelec: Overseas voting via internet to improve turnout, cost

05:54 AM April 07, 2024

John Rex Laudiangco


MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will save taxpayers’ money and encourage a higher turnout should overseas absentee voters be allowed to cast their ballots online, the poll body’s spokesperson said on Friday.

“It will also serve as the key in lowering our expenses in overseas voting. If you recall, we have to transport voting machines, ballots and other election paraphernalia, and train people [to man the overseas voting precincts in Philippine consulates and embassies],” lawyer John Rex Laudiangco said at the Bagong Pilipinas public briefing.


Laudiangco said that since the Comelec announced its intention to conduct voting via Internet in most countries, around 100,000 Filipinos overseas have registered as first-time voters or have reactivated their registrations.


READ: Comelec: 4 bidders for overseas online voting, counting system

READ: Comelec: New voters breach 1 million mark

“Since our countrymen abroad heard that there will be Internet voting, the number of overseas absentee voting registrations have slowly started to increased—there’s now more or less 100,000 who’ve registered abroad and we expect there will be more in the coming weeks,” he said.

Laudiangco said Comelec hopes internet voting would not only increase registrants but also result in a higher turnout.

During the 2022 elections, he said that out of the 1.6 million registered voters overseas, only less than 38 percent or around 600,000 cast their ballots. The current number of overseas absentee voters is a little over 1.1 million due to their registrations being deactivated for failing to vote in two consecutive elections or because the voters have already returned to the country.

Based on survey

“When we conducted a survey among our countrymen abroad, their reasons for not being able to vote is that the embassies and consulates [serving as voting precincts] were far from them, and they did not have the time to vote, even if they have 30 days to do so,” Laudiangco said.


He said that among those who opted to vote by mail, many failed to send back their ballots, even if the postage is already paid, because post offices were supposedly far from them. Seafarers could also not vote when they are at sea during the 30-day voting period.

“That is why with internet voting, wherever they are—in their homes or at work, especially our mariners and seafarers on their ships—for as along as there’s an internet [connection], they can register their gadgets in order to vote,” he said.

Laudiangco said that due to local internet restrictions, voting by mail or in consulates and embassies would still be conducted in 12 countries, namely China, Myanmar, East Timor, Russia, Turkiye, Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Libya.

On April 2, the joint venture of SMS Global Technologies Inc. and Sequent Tech Inc. made the lowest bid—only P112 million—for the Comelec’s P465.8-million contract for the online voting and counting system for overseas absentee voters.

The joint venture will be declared the winner after passing postqualification evaluation.

Laudiangco said the accessibility, security, accuracy and auditability were the features that Comelec was looking for in the online voting system.

He said voters should be able to cast their electronic ballots using their mobile phones, laptops and other computers through a use-friendly application.

As part of security, there should be authentication mechanisms similar to those used by gadgets for online banking.

The internet voting system should also be able to demonstrate to the overseas absentee voter proof that he had really cast his ballot and that his ballot was already counted.

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On auditability, Laudiangco said that system should have error recovery capabilities and could print the ballots cast.

TAGS: absentee voting, Comelec, overseas precincts

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