Voting in the malls: Why not? says Comelec
Some voters may no longer have to endure the hot, crowded and chaotic atmosphere inside the polling precincts in the 2016 elections as some of the voting will be held inside air-conditioned shopping malls, according to the Commission on Elections.
Comelec Chair Andres Bautista, in a press briefing during the opening of the satellite registration at the Robinsons Place in Manila on Saturday, said the idea of holding elections inside the malls is part of the poll agency’s efforts to make voting more convenient for the public.
“We want to enhance the voting experience,” said Bautista, adding that he saw no legal impediment to elections being held in malls.
“If we can do it in private schools, why can’t we do it in other public facilities such as malls?” he said.
“I made a preliminary study in respect of these issues and what I am told is that you can move precincts that are near the malls to vote within the malls. So for example, instead of voting in a public school in the vicinity, we can transfer the polling precincts to the malls,” he explained.
Section 42 of the Omnibus Election Code states that public schools or any other public buildings within the barangay shall be used as polling places.
It also provides that in case that there is no public school or other public building that can be used as polling places, other appropriate private buildings may be designated.
Bautista cited the advantages of voting inside the malls.
“There are a lot of ills of elections that we can mitigate if we allow voting inside malls, like vote-buying, violence, the issue of impatient voters. You know, people tend to become irritable and hot-tempered if they’re in crowded areas. At least in malls, even if there are many people and long queues, there is the air-conditioning system to keep them cool,” he said.
He said the voting experience in a mall setting would ensure that people are happier while they cast their votes so it should also lead to greater voter turnout.
“Malls are well-lighted, restaurants are accessible so you can eat while waiting for your turn to vote. It will also decongest voters in the schools that are being used as polling precincts. It will enhance security and there will be no issue of brownouts that may affect transmission of votes since malls have generator sets,” he added.
The Comelec chief said the poll body is hoping it can finalize the mall-voting plan by November.
The Robinsons Land Corp. (RLC) was the first to offer their malls as venues for voting in 2016.
“We hope that the example of Robinsons will be emulated by other similar organizations. I just don’t want the residents of Metro Manila to benefit from this. It’s a great thing that Robinsons has 42 malls nationwide, we want everybody in the country as much as possible, if there is such an opportunity, [to be] be given the convenience in voting,” he said.
“It’s really a win-win as far as Comelec is concerned and we really we need forward-looking businessmen to be able to realize that this is good for the country, and therefore, eventually, good for business,” he said.
RLC president Frederick Go said the company was “very honored to host again the Comelec and be the first to allow voting in [the] Robinsons malls. Come May 2016, I’m sure we will make the general public very, very happy that now they can vote in a very comfortable setting, and a very safe and secure environment.”
Manila residents took advantage of the satellite registration, which is part of the Comelec’s “No Bio, No Boto” campaign at Robinsons Place Ermita on Saturday.
Some 4.3 million registered voters are still without biometrics data—digital photograph, signature and fingerprints in their registration records—which the Comelec said was essential to qualify as a voter in 2016.
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