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CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – All it took for each voter was about 5 minutes. And he had successfully voted.
Mock polls conducted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in this city went smoothly for the 43 voters who participated, but challenges remain.
Two of the 10 precincts nationwide chosen for the vote testing were in Cagayan de Oro, particularly in Barangay Balulang and Barangay 1. They were open 7-10 am Saturday, February 2.
Commissioner Grace Padaca and representatives of accredited watchdogs Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) observed the mock polls.
“It’s our chance to help out and see how smooth this incoming election could hopefully be run,” Wincita Perdizo, one of the earliest to arrive and cast her vote, said in a mix of Cebuano and English.
On the average, each of the 10 voters timed took about 5 minutes to cast his or her vote.
Voters' education needed
However, PPCRV’s Peter Abejuela said, “The voter turn-out is still relatively slow” compared to previous elections. Of the 50 voters enlisted for the mock polls in the city, only 43, or 86%, showed up.
“It is reflective of the culture we have as voters — there’s very little interest that our votes matter,” Abejuela said. He said this shows the need for election players to give greater focus on voter education.
Election Inspector Ruth Graven noted that the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines have been updated since being used for the first time in 2010, and the procedure in filling out the ballots “has been smoothed out.”
Still, she said, some poll clerks need to re-orient themselves with the machines and the steps in the process — like how to put thermal paper in the PCOS, for instance.
The review materials and manuals that the Comelec provided them were washed away by the floods brought by Typhoon Sendong in 2011. The poll body gave them an initial refresher a week before the mock polls.
Reliable signals, too
Padaca, who was at the precinct in Barangay 1, noted this: “We need to look at the needs and the various situations that might come as a challenge in the actual election in May — not just the machines, but the teachers, the watchers, the security, and everything that can help our people vote with relative ease.”
One of the voters in Barangay Balulang was a person with disability (PWD). Padaca pointed out that “these things have to be also given importance.”
She is recommending that express lanes for PWDs be set up at the precincts. “If possible look into the possibility of having a separate holding room not just for those with special needs but with everyone else,” Padaca said.
The commissioner also noted that the availability of reliable signals in the voting areas has to be ensured, so the PCOS machines can quickly transmit their count to the servers.
A minor disruption occurred shortly after the precinct opened at the City Central Elementary School. A fire occurred on the second floor of the building, but was quickly put out. The mock poll was being conducted on the first floor.
“Teachers conducting the elections were so relaxed. I was told they thought it was simply a fire drill. The resultant brownout gave us a chance to prove usefulness of PCOS batteries,” Padaca said in a text message. – With reports from Giano Libot and Buena Bernal/Rappler.com
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