What to do when the vote-counting machine rejects your ballot

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What to do when the vote-counting machine rejects your ballot
Equipment issues mar the polls in various areas in the country

MANILA, Philippines – Millions of Filipinos flocked to polling centers to cast their ballots in the midterm elections Monday, May 13. But there have been complaints about a range of problems with vote-counting machines (VCM).

One high-profile incident involved former vice president Jejomar Binay, who was unable to immediately cast his ballot after his Makati precinct’s VCM repeatedly rejected it.

For voters who might be in the same boat, here are some possible reasons why your ballot is being rejected – not of your own doing – and what can be done to fix it, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution No. 10460:

  • Ballot is not scanned properly – in which case, the VCM will display a message that says “misread ballot”
  • Ballot has the same ID number of a ballot that has already been scanned (“previously read ballot”)
  • Ballot is not configured to the VCM (“invalid ballot”)

In the first instance, the voter shall be allowed by the electoral board (EB) or polling officers to re-feed his or her ballot in the machine up to “4 times in 4 different orientations.”

If a ballot is rendered invalid, the voter should return the ballot to the EB chair, who in turn will check if the ballot ID corresponds to the assigned precinct’s number. If it does not match, the officer will mark the ballot “REJECTED” and place it inside the envelope for rejected ballots. The officer will then issue the correct ballot to the voter.

If in those 3 instances the ballot is still rejected, the voter must return the ballot to the EB chair, who will:

  • Distinctly mark the back of the ballot as “REJECTED”
  • Require all EB members to sign at the back
  • Place the ballot inside the envelope for rejected ballots

The resolution doesn’t say whether a replacement ballot will be issued to the voter. It does say that “no replacement ballot shall be issued to a voter whose ballot is rejected by the VCM, except if the rejection of the ballot is not due to the fault of the voter.”

It also says: “Any party objecting to the rejection of the ballot shall reduce his objection in writing, which the EB shall attach to and note in the minutes.”

When a VCM is by any reason declared defective, Comelec Resolution No. 10497 offers voters two options:

  • Wait for the issue to be resolved or a replacement machine to arrive so they can personally feed their ballots into the machine
  • Cast their votes and entrust their ballots to the EB, who will “batch-feed” the ballots into the new VCM before polls close

As of 2 pm on election day, the Comelec has counted 400 to 600 defective VCMs in the country that had to be replaced – which is a new high, spokesman James Jimenez said. In the 2016 elections, the tally was way lower at 188 VCMs. –

Follow Rappler’s full coverage of the 2019 Philippine elections here.

Bookmark this Rappler page for real-time election results.
It will go live as soon as precincts close at 6 pm Monday, May 13.

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