Ballot printing delays present new problems

By Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak

Posted at Feb 01 2010 10:33 PM | Updated as of Feb 02 2010 06:49 AM

MANILA, Philippines--The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has again moved for another week the schedule for the printing of official ballots--the 4th time a postponement was made--this time citing security reasons.

The latest change in schedule is causing concern to vote counting machine supplier Smartmatic. The firm's director for Asia-Pacific Cesar Flores said that the "printing facilities were actually built based on their previous timeline," and that "any other changes might imply more printers or additional cost that we haven't calculated yet, and other logistical issues."

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez told reporters on Monday that the poll body decided to start printing the official ballots on February 7, or a week later than its January 31 schedule.

This is the fourth time that the poll body has delayed the printing of official ballots. The activity was originally set to start on January 25, then postponed to January 30, then January 31.

The National Printing Office (NPO) and Smartmatic have prepared for the printing of official ballots, but the Comelec decided to print only the sample ballots in the meantime. The samples will be used in teachers' training and voters' education campaigns.

Security reasons

The Comelec initially said that the reason for the postponement of ballot printing was the pending disqualification cases against a number of national and local candidates. It wants to eliminate the names of disqualified bets before the ballots are prepared.

This time, Jimenez said the postponement has to do with the schedule of delivery of ballots to local treasurers' offices in cities and municipalities. The poll body set the shipment of ballots to start on April 25. He explained that if they delay printing the ballots, they will also delay the delivery to the localities, and will thus shorten the period that the ballots will be lying around in the treasurers' offices.

"There would be several days that the ballots would be siting there not moving. That's something that we're not comfortable with in the standpoint of security," he said.

Jimenez said the good side about the delay in printing is that this will give them enough time to validate the official list of candidates.

The poll body will be printing 1,631 unique ballot faces for the various cities and municipalities across the country.

Comelec chair Jose Melo admitted that there are indeed some more pending cases, particularly on candidates for local races and partylist elections. These cases are yet to be decided both by the poll body and the Supreme Court. "Marami pang motion for reconsideration (MR) na hindi pa nareresolve," he said. (Newsbreak)