Comelec decides not to extend voter registration

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will not extend voter registration for the 2022 Philippine elections beyond September 30, 2021, citing its calendar of activities and COVID-19 constraints.

The Comelec made the decision despite calls by several lawmakers and youth groups to move the deadline by at least a month. They cited the repeated suspension of voter registration operations caused by coronavirus-driven hard lockdowns since 2020.

"The En Banc – citing concerns about the timeline of preparations for the 2022 National and Local Elections, as well as significant continuing apprehensions about the health and safety of the public and of Comelec personnel – decided against extending the voter registration period beyond September 30, 2021," Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said in a press statement on Wednesday, August 18.

In a press briefing, Jimenez said the Comele is worries that extending the deadline might result in a "domino effect" that would delay the Comelec's other activities.

"The Commission is concerned that if we delay the end of voter registration, it will also cost corresponding delays in all other preparatory activities, especially those that depend on the finalization of the list of voters," he said.

The poll body, however, also decided to extend voter registration hours. Beginning August 23, Comelec will receive voter applications from 8 am to 7 pm from Mondays to Fridays, and 8 am to 5 pm on Saturdays and holidays.

Before the change, voter registration hours were only until 5 pm from Mondays to Saturdays in areas under general community quarantine (GCQ), and modified GCQ. 

It remains to be seen whether that Comelec's decision would benefit people in areas that have lost many months of voter registration due to hard lockdowns. Vote-rich Metro Manila, in particular, endured five months of hard lockdowns in 2020, and at least two months of hard lockdowns in 2021, resulting in the suspension of voter registration.

Jimenez also reiterated that voter registration will not be opened in areas that remain under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) and modified ECQ – the strictest forms of lockdown under the Duterte administration.

"If ECQ is extended, the suspension is likewise extended," Jimenez said, when asked whether the Comelec has taken into consideration the possibility of ECQ being extended in Metro Manila after August 20.

Lawmakers in both chambers of Congress have filed multiple resolutions calling for the extension of voter registration to at least October 31, arguing that there had been past elections when the voter registration deadline was set beyond September 30. 

They have also pointed out that the Philippine Statistics Authority’s projected voting population for next year is 73.3 million. Comparing this to the 60 million already registered, they fear that 13.3 million who are qualified could be disenfranchised.

Youth organizations and former poll officials had also petitioned for the Comelec to extend the registration period.

More details to follow. – Rappler.com