Voters not required to 'personally' audit votes – Comelec
MANILA, Philippines – Saying that ballots already serve the purpose of voting receipts, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) denied that it is violating the law by refusing to issue receipts from vote-counting machines (VCMs).
"With due respect, the law does not require each voter to personally (emphasis theirs) verify whether the VCMs have been able to count their votes," the Comelec told the Supreme Court (SC) in a motion for reconsideration filed on Friday, March 11.
After all, the poll body said, it already conducts a random manual audit (RMA) of votes. In this process, auditors manually tally the votes in random precincts and compare these with the votes as counted by the machines.
Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia earlier said the Comelec will conduct the RMA in more election precincts compared to 2013.
The Comelec's motion before the SC comes after the High Court ordered the poll body to issue voting receipts in the May 9 polls. This SC ruling thrust the Comelec into a state of emergency, which, according to the poll body, could lead to a "failure of elections."
The Comelec appealed the SC ruling after it partly lost by default by missing its deadline to comment on the case. (READ: Why Comelec failed to defend itself before SC: 'We were busy')
In its 13-page appeal before the SC, the Comelec asserted that it complies with the required Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) even without issuing voting receipts.
The Comelec said the VVPAT "shoud not be translated exclusively into a voter's receipt requirement." (READ: EXPLAINER: Why it's alright not to have voting receipts)
The poll body also said it "respectfully disagrees" with the recent SC ruling that says the VVPAT has "two elements."
The SC said the VVPAT requires the following:
- "Individual voters can verify whether the machines have been able to count their votes."
- The verification at least "should be paper-based."
In its 16-page ruling released on Wednesday, March 9, the SC said: "There appears to be no room for further interpretation of a 'voter verified paper audit trail.' The paper audit trail cannot be considered the physical ballot, because there may be instances where the machine may translate the ballot differently, or the voter inadvertently spoils his or her ballot."
The Comelec, however, said the VVPAT has the following purposes under the law:
- To provide "system auditability," a way to have "supporting documentation" to verify the correctness of election results
- To give voters "a system of verification to check if the machine has registered his/her choice"
This is why the Comelec said the law does not require the "personal" verification of votes.
"The paper ballot is the VVPAT (emphasis theirs)," the Comelec said.
The SC is expected to tackle the Comelec's appeal this week. – Rappler.com
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