'Extended voter registration won't require more ballots'

by Jesus F. Llanto, Newsbreak

Posted at Dec 22 2009 04:09 PM | Updated as of Dec 23 2009 12:15 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will not print additional ballots to accommodate the new voters who will register during the extended listing, a poll official said.

James Jimenez, spokesperson of the poll body, told reporters on Tuesday that as of now, the Comelec will not print new ballots for the additional voters as a result of the extended registration.

The Supreme Court had ruled for the reopening of the voters' registration after Ang Kabataan party-list group challenged the Comelec's resolution to set an earlier deadline for voters' registration due to preparations for the poll automation.

The first deadline, set in an earlier Comelec resolution, was December 15, but the poll body pushed it back to October 31. The extended voters' registration period is from December 21 to 29.

“We will not be printing new ballots that will correspond to the new registrants. We will just go on with the ballots that we already have determined that needs to be printed,” Jimenez said.

Printing of excess ballots for these new registrants, Jimenez said, may raise issues of attempts to influence the result of the elections.

“Excess ballots give rise to rumors and fears of vote manipulation. We want to print the precise number of ballots, that's why we are not printing excess ballots,” Jimenez added.

New registrants under the extended list-up, Jimenez added, will find themselves in a separate list of voters since existing voters' list has been finalized and is ready for dissemination. He added that the new registrants will be using the unused ballots in each precinct.

“Historically, on election days, we do not have a 100% turnout for each precinct so there are always ballots that are not used,” Jimenez said, adding that the usual voter turnout in the Philippines ranges from 75-80% turnout.

According to the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), voter turnout in the presidential elections in the Philippines in 1998 and 2004 reached 78.7% and 84.1%, respectively.

“We believe that these unused ballots are enough to accommodate the new registrants,” he added.

Jimenez said that in extreme cases where there will be a 100 percent voter turnout, the poll body may consider the use of provisional ballots that will be counted manually. However, he said that the commission has not yet finalized any backup plan for this scenario but assured that this will be dealt administratively. (Newsbreak)