Poll machines arrive in ARMM amid postponement debates

Nash B. Maulana in Cotabato City, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Aug 05 2008 12:09 AM | Updated as of Aug 05 2008 08:13 AM

The delivery of 3,000 automated polling machines to be used in Maguindanao, the powerbase of Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) reelectionist Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, was completed Sunday amid debates in Manila over the postponement of the August 11 regional elections.

Election watchdogs also vowed to continue their information drive until Congress approves the postponement of the polls, as demanded by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that is signing a controversial peace pact with the government tomorrow.

“Until it’s finally cancelled and postponed by Congress, we will not stop preparing through conducting voters’ education,” said Fr. David Procalla, ICC, Central Mindanao coordinator for the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting.

His group is working with volunteers of the Consortium of Citizens’ Action for Reforming the Elections (C-CARE) in the other four provinces of the region.

Elections officials, accompanied by computer technicians, said each machine can tabulate and transmit polling results to a canvassing center and forward them to the national headquarters of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) within 16 hours from the start of the regional elections on Monday.

Anticipating the usual pre-proclamation legal contests at the provincial level, provincial elections supervisor Kasan Usi said the proclamation of winners can take place on the third day of canvassing.

Comelec computers in Maguindanao will be using direct recording electronic (DRE) system. Each unit has a voting pad, screen, and control button.

Representatives of Smartmatic-Sahi, the machine supplier, gave assurances that their technology and manpower support can handle the demands of the elections.

They are prepared for the frequent power outage in ARMM provinces. Vince Dizon, spokesperson of Smartamatic-Sahi, said they have sufficient battery packs for backup to last 16 hours.  

The machine has simplified the voting process, especially for those who cannot read. In choosing a gubernatorial candidate, photographs of the three choices appear on screen: reelectionist Ampatuan, Esmael Arabani, and controversial Indanan, Sulu, Mayor Alvarez Isnaji. (Only three remained of the seven who filed certificates of candidacies.)

The voter only has to touch the part of the screen where the photograph of his choice candidate appears.

Next, a question will appear on the screen whether the voter is sure of his choices. He will punch either  “Oo” (Yes) or “Hindi” (No) on the voting pad. Then the voter presses on screen the word “Boto” or vote.

The next screen shows the photos of the three candidates for vice governor, and the process for selection is repeated. The same goes for choosing the province’s representatives to the regional assembly.

A paper tape records the voter’s entries. Voters can keep these records to serve as their candidates’ evidence in case of election protests.

The process is repeated for the positions of vice governor (three candidates), and the regional assemblymen.