Saturday, February 06, 2010

Mock polls show voters poorly informed

MANILA, Philippines--The Commission on Elections (Comelec) considered as "almost perfect" the technical side of the mock elections held Saturday morning in 5 cities nationwide, but the exercise posed a bigger concern for the poll body--the unfamiliarity of voters with the new ballot.

The mock polls allowed up to 50 voters in 9 precincts in 5 cities nationwide to go through the entire process of automated voting--from shading the sample ballots, feeding ballots on to the machines, and witnessing the transmission of the data from the election machine to the Comelec servers.

Mock voting in precincts ran from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m., after which the data in each machine were sent to 3 test servers--the central server at the Comelec main office in Manila, server at the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) office, and server at the city hall of the precincts' localities. For redundancy and auditing purposes, city canvassers will then send their data to the central server.

"From the technical point of view and the platform point of view, everything worked as expected a 100%," said Cesar Flores, Smartmatic president for Southeast Asia.

Melo: 'Almost perfect'

Comelec chair Jose Melo said that since only minor glitches were encountered, the mock elections should be considered "almost perfect."

The central server at Comelec received data from the various voting and canvassing centers up to 11am.

Before 10 a.m.:
9:08 Bulacao Community School (Cebu City)
9:54 Pines City Natl High School (Baguio)
9:50 Community Youth Center (Baguio)
9:59 Cebu City board of canvassers

10 am to 11 a.m.:
10:02 New Era Elementary School (Quezon City)
10:18 Ricardo Papa Memorial High School (Taguig City)
10:18 Quezon City board of canvassers
10:19 Baguio City board of canvassers
10:21 Generoso Elementary School (Davao City)
10:23 Mabini Elementary School (Cebu City)
10:26 Alejandra Navarro Elementary School (Davao City)
10:50 Davao City board of canvassers

Beyond 11 a.m.:
11:11 Maharlika Elementary School (Taguig City)
11:28 Taguig City board of canvassers
11:54 Taguig-Pateros district board of canvassers

The votes from Taguig came late, as voting in Maharlika Elementary School was delayed. A lot of registered voters reportedly swamped the polling place to participate in the drill, not aware of the 50-voter limitation. But the data was transmitted before lunchtime.

Election officers noted that the transmission of data from the precincts to the test servers took 1 to 2 minutes. All election machines transmitted data using GSM signals.

Officials stationed at the New Era Elementary School initially reported difficulty in sending data to the KBP server, but was able to send successfully after 3 attempts. It was found out, according to Quezon City election officer Ronald Allan Sindo, that the KBP server was down during the initial transmissions.

Poorly-informed voters

Based on observations by poll officials, the mock polls show that there are concerns coming from the voters that should be given more attention.

Michael Dioneda, election director for National Capital Region, said that most participants were not clearly informed on how to properly handle the ballots. Due to errors in marking the ballots, 5 ballots in Quezon City and 3 in Taguig City were not accepted by the election machines. These ballots will be brought to Comelec for further studying.

Also, a participant in Taguig City was reported as a "flying voter," as he was able to vote twice in the mock poll. It was also reported that his index finger was not marked with indelible ink, hence making it easy for him to vote the second time. Makati City election officer Juliet Villar said that it was not an error made by the assigned BEI, but rather by the voter himself.

Dioneda said that a "massive voters education" is indeed needed as the automated elections come near.

He added that some voters complained about the small fonts of the ballots, and noted the need to install a projector at the city canvassing to let watchers view the counting process.

In an earlier interview, Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that another set of mock elections, this time in rural areas, might be set in the coming days.

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