Election chaos not a surprise – Namfrel

Aries C. Rufo

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Namfrel says it's not ready to declare there was massive disenfranchisement of voters

MANILA, Philippines – Chaos in Monday’s elections – from malfunctioning Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, to long lines in polling precincts, and voters failing to find their names on the list – are the usual problems that should have been anticipated by the Commission on Elections, poll watchdog National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections said.

“These problems that were being reported should not surprise us or Comelec. These were the usual problems before,” Namfrel’s Damaso Magbual said in a press conference.

Asked if the situation has caused a massive disenfranchisement of voters, Magbual said: “We are not yet ready to say that at this point.”

Telibert Laoc, also of Namfrel, said the number of voters being disenfranchised because of PCOS glitches and the overall conduct of the elections would be relevant depending on “how decisive the numbers are in affecting the results in closely contested elections.”

In the 2010 national polls, about 3 to 5 million were estimated to have been disenfranchised after they failed to find their assigned precincts, could not find their names, or simply left the voting areas out of frustration. This resulted from the clustering of precincts due to automation.

Maricol Akol of AES Watch , a group monitoring the implementation of the automated elections, said the main cause of long queues this year was due to malfunctioning PCOS. (Read: PCOS glitches hound elections)

In the 2010 elections, “the main problem was people cannot find their precincts. This time, it is because of the glitches in the PCOS,” she said.

In Zamboanga province for instance, Namfrel received reports from volunteers that 22 PCOS deployed in the province have been found to be defective.

News reports show that congestion in many precincts was triggered mainly by malfunctioning PCOS machines.

The situation is made worse by Board of Election Inspectors who are as confused as the voters over what remedial measures should be done in case the machine doesn’t work at the first try.

In some areas, machines simply do not work, while in other places, while in units reject the ballots when inserted. A ballot that has been rejected on the fifth try would be considered “null.”  – Rappler.com

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