Watchdog asks Comelec to do mock polls again

By Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak

Posted at Feb 17 2010 09:00 PM | Updated as of Feb 18 2010 05:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - A poll watchdog is requesting the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to conduct another mock election to fix the glitches discovered in the 2 earlier field tests.

Kontra Daya on Wednesday sent a letter requesting the poll body to have a followup to the mock elections held on February 6. Up to 50 participants in 9 selected precincts nationwide participated in the 2-hour mock polls. Observers of the mock polls noted glitches in the feeding of the ballots, the electronic transmission of data, and a general lack of awareness of the new system.

The group noted that some ballots were rejected by the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines during the mock polls due to "ambiguous marks," yet officials of the Comelec and machine provider Smartmatic refused to examine them. "This, of course, runs counter to the principle of transparency," the group said in the letter.

The letter added that "there are still no clear guidelines on what happens to voters if their ballots are rejected by the machine."

The group also raised the issue of having enough time in the polls. They noted that participants of the mock polls in New Era Elementary School in Quezon City spent an average 5-6 minutes to accomplish their ballots. The mock poll, however, does not include other steps before the filling up of ballots that may also take time, like looking for names in the voters' list.

"If 50 voters need 110 minutes to vote, that would mean 36 hours for 1,000 people to vote. Even at the rate of 1 hour for 50 voters, that would still require 20 hours for 1,000 people to vote. If we have a 75% voter turnout, that would still require some 15 hours for 750 people to vote," the letter said.

Poll precincts on election day will be open for 11 hours, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The group requested that the next mock poll "should simulate actual election day conditions." This will be done, according to them, by including procedures like checking of names in the voters list, and including more people from different regions to participate.

"The Comelec should be able to continuously hold these mock elections so that more and more people can be educated on the process and for watchdog groups to be able to test the vulnerabilities of the system," the letter stated.

The group also asked the poll body of any contingency plans to conduct manual elections should the automated system fail. "This should be done sooner or later," it stated.

Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal assured members of of Kontra Daya who visited the Comelec office that the concerns raised in their letter will be discussed in the en banc meeting next week.

In earlier interviews, Larrazabal clarified that Comelec will also conduct mock elections in other regions on the country, although the details of this plan will still be deliberated. (Newsbreak)