Friday, November 06, 2009

Minnesota official vouches for PCOS machines

MANILA - Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and a US election expert on Friday said the Commission on Elections made the right choice in choosing precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the automation of the 2010 national elections.

Speaking via teleconference at the De La Salle University College of Law, Ritchie said the state of Minnesota has been using PCOS machines in elections for more than 20 years and not once have they questioned the results.

"The system you've chosen is a system we're very comfortable with and a system we trust in terms of security and ease of use. PCOS [machines] have a very high degree of accuracy and very trusted by citizens and gives high credibility. This is important in cases of close elections where we have to do count by hand," he said.

He said that while the actual count is automated, voters are still required to fill in the ballots that would be counted. This allows election officials to check the results with the actual copies of the ballots.

Prof. Rachel Smith, program director for the Excellence in Election Administration Center of the University of Minnesota, said that while PCOS machines are 99 percent accurate, poll officials should still safeguard the transfer of the machines and the actual ballots. She added that the memory cards should be sealed to prevent tampering.

"Memory card used [are] most vunerable to attack. It must be sealed inside voting system and check seals during transfers," she said also via teleconference.

Ritchie, meanwhile, said the success of an automated election ultimately depends on the vigilance of the Comelec and the support of the public.

Comelec officials, meanwhile, thanked the guest speakers for backing their decision to choose PCOS machines for next year's electoral exercise.

"It gives us a high level of confidence, the way they talked about trustworthiness and accuracy of the PCOS. It shows us we're on the right track because their system and our system are the same," Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said.

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