Comelec eyes January 2022 launch of online precinct finder

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said it is eyeing to launch in January 2022 an online platform that would help voters find their precincts for the May 9, 2022 polls.

"For the precinct finder, it will be available only after the finalization of the list of voters," Comelec information and technology department director Jeannie Flororita told lawmakers during the Senate finance panel's deliberations on the poll body's budget for 2022 on Monday, October 18.

"If the database has been finalized [by] December, we can make it available by January. We need the final data and [project of precincts] so that the voters can search their [data] and polling center," she added.

The number of precincts for the 2022 elections is dependent on the total number of Filipinos who would be able to cast their ballots. Voter registration for next year's elections will end on October 30, 2021.

Flororita said a vulnerability assessment and penetration testing was being conducted by the Comelec with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

For now, Filipinos who want to check the status of their voter data and their precinct assignment may call their local Comelec office

Decongesting precincts

The election body is not giving up on its goal to reduce the number of voters assigned per clustered precincts, in a bid to minimize COVID-19 spread.

The Comelec is eyeing to use nearly 110,000 vote-counting machines (VCMs) in 2022, to be able to decongest each precinct from 1,000 in 2019 to 800 in 2022. Each precinct is assigned one VCM.

The poll body is in the process of refurbishing its 97,345 machines with the help of technology firm Smartmatic, which bagged the P637-million ($12.5-million) contract for the project in June.

"Some 80% [of the VCMs] have been refurbished, so we'll meet our schedules," Comelec Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said, noting a November completion date.

The procurement of additional 10,000 VCMs is ongoing, after the Comelec declared a failure of bidding on the project in September.

Smartmatic, the only firm that expressed interest in the P600.5-million ($11.8-million) contract, did not submit a bid back then, saying the approved budget was insufficient.

In October, the Comelec raised the approved budget for the contract to P864.024 million ($16.9 million).

The 2022 vote in the Philippines will be the first major electoral exercise to be conducted against the backdrop of a raging pandemic.

This virus threat has resulted in repeated calls for the Comelec to "COVID-proof" the elections, where 63 million people are already eligible to cast their ballots.

On Monday, the Senate finance panel submitted to the plenary the proposed 2022 budget of the Comelec.

The election body had sought a nearly P42-billion ($825.7-million) budget, although the Duterte administration only proposed over P26 billion ($521 million) to Congress. – Rappler.com

*$1 = P50.85