Mock poll hiccups
Just how serious were the technical glitches that were experienced during last week’s mock polls done by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in select areas in Cebu?
For starters, the Comelec was unable to transmit the results of the mock polls in Santander town, the remotest area in southern Cebu as well as two schools in barangay Mabolo, Cebu City at least until before 5 p.m.
In one school, a Smartmatic technician had trouble adjusting the vote-counting machine to enable it to accept the ballots, resulting in a two-hour delay in the mock polls.
Otherwise, one Manila-based Comelec representative said the glitches were minor and nothing to get too excited about. It’s not that reassuring to those who took part in the mock elections as they echoed the sentiments of election watchdogs that the country may not be ready for yet another (mostly) automated elections.
That being said, the alternative to conducting the elections manually doesn’t prove to be quite appetizing despite the warnings of former Comelec commissioner Gus Lagman that glitches may compromise the integrity of this year’s most important political exercise.
Lagman, who insisted on a mix of manual and automated tabulation of votes, has no small number of people who believe that he may be right. But the Comelec hierarchy led by its chairman Andres Bautista believes there is adequate time to fix those glitches and train the personnel to oversee the machines in time for the May 9 polls.
While the voters had two previous elections to fall back on in terms of experience in voting under an automated setup, the glitches bear watching: just a slight over-shading, the incorrect placement of the ballot and the so-called “over-voting” or erasures to those little circles can invalidate a voter’s ballot.
At least the Comelec had the sense to retain the names of Sen. Grace Poe and the late Roy Señeres as presidential candidates. So are the glitches serious enough to warrant a last-minute overhaul in the voting process?
The Comelec said before that it is prepared to go back to manual vote-counting in the event the automated elections setup won’t fly. But as shown in the case of the Cebu mock elections, the machines and the ballots were delivered on the day of the test run so election personnel and Smartmatic technicians didn’t have enough time to iron out any possible kinks in the system.
Bautista ordered yet another simulation exercise days ahead of the election to make sure that the glitches are eliminated, if not down to the barest minimum. The country has invested too much in the automated elections for it to go back to manual vote-counting. It’s time to buckle down to work.
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