Comelec admits more problems in voting system

Paterno Esmaquel II
Comelec admits more problems in voting system
Vote-counting machines reject 1-2% of ballot papers, but the elections chief says the Comelec has 'no problems, only challenges'


MANILA, Philippines – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday, February 10, admitted more problems in the automated election system as the Comelec has less than 3 months to prepare for the May 9 elections. 

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said it feels like being a patient who underwent an operation – and found other ailments while in the operating room. 

One of the new major problems afflicts the vote-counting machines (VCMs). 

In a recent test conducted by the Comelec, the machines rejected 1-2% of ballot papers.

Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said this is because the machines detected stray marks from the printers.

The Comelec attributed this to the new “self-diagnostic feature” of vote-counting machines. This feature allows the machines to reject ballots with stray marks. 

If the vote-counting machines rejected 2% of the actual ballots on election day, that would mean 1.14 million ballots going to waste.

The Comelec plans to print 57 million ballots for the May 9 elections.

Changing ‘sensitivity’ of machines

Bautista said the Comelec had the “self-diagnostic feature” installed to avoid a repeat of a problem in the May 2013 elections. 

Back then, the vote-counting machines reportedly produced “digital lines.” The machines later detected these digital lines as “shades” or votes on ballots. (READ: ‘Dagdag-bawas’ through ‘digital lines’ in PCOS?

Bautista said the Comelec wants to prevent digital lines, even as it wants to resolve the current problem in vote-counting machines. 

This is why the Comelec has ruled out removing the “self-diagnostic feature.” 

Instead, the Comelec has chosen to change the “sensitivity” of the vote-counting machines. This will make the equipment less stringent in rejecting ballots with stray marks. 

To change this “sensitivity,” the Comelec now has to rebuild the source code, or the “master blueprint,” of the vote-counting machines.

Bautista said rebuilding the source code will take only a few hours. 

Other problems 

The other major problem, which the Comelec admitted on Wednesday, involves the consolidation and canvassing system (CCS). 

The CCS is the system that consolidates election results from voting precincts on election day. 

Jimenez said there was a problem in generating the image to make the CCS program “installable.” 

Only two days before the Comelec disclosed these issues, the poll body said there was another problem in the election system. 

Comelec Commissioner Christian Lim said the problem involves incompatible codes in the systems to be used. The Comelec now needs to redo a major step to make these codes compatible.

This compatibility issue prompted the Comelec to delay the printing of ballots.

Lim said that because of this problem, the Comelec might have to postpone elections in a few places. 

Bautista, however, said he is confident that the elections will happen on May 9. 

He said the delay only involves depositing the needed source codes in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). 

The Comelec was supposed to deposit the source codes in the BSP on Tuesday, February 9, but it postponed this process because of the problems discovered. 

Returning to his metaphor of a patient, Bautista said, “It may be a blessing in disguise in these, that at least we’re able to address these problems.” 

At the same time, Bautista said, “We don’t have problems in Comelec, only challenges.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.