Poll automation forum draws over 600 comments online

By Gemma Bagayaua Mendoza, abs-cbnNEWS.com/ Newsbreak

Posted at Sep 22 2009 02:34 PM | Updated as of Sep 23 2009 08:36 PM

Boto Mo iPatrol Mo Day ended with a bang on Monday, September 21 with the holding of “ANC Presents: A 2010 Poll Automation Forum.”

The 90-minute forum, which was made viewable online via free live streaming on www.abs-cbnnews.com/ancliveenvents, attracted almost 800 chatters to participate actively in a lively discussion over poll automation.

In less than three hours, it stimulated 629 individual comments, which were submitted by users either directly through the abs-cbnNEWS.com’s chatroom, via popular micro-blogging tool Twitter, or via mobile phones.

The forum started at around 8 in the evening. By half past 8, as much as 14 comments were coming in per minute.

How to vote

Some chatters were interested to watch the demonstration on how voting will be conducted in an automated system.

Nestor Sienes of Calamba City, Laguna, said “Comelec should have a TV infomercial demonstrating how the machine works.”

Jun from Butuan City noted that, in the same way that politicians spend millions of pesos dancing and singing in infomercials, Comelec should also spend money “to educate the public how to vote in the coming elections.”

A number were interested in technical matters and solutions to possible practical problems. 

Iam of Cebu asked, “what happens if the paper gets stuck up and the machine gets busted?do u provide technical support?”

Long ballots

Jose Ilagan of Quezon City asked how transmission is going to be done. He pointed out that the Internet is not yet available nationwide. “So is SMS the way? How does Smartmatic intend to do this?”

Twitter user Jesterinexile wanted to know how the machine would handle spoiled ballots.

Holden, who logged on directly to abs-cbnNEWS.com’s online chat facility, pointed out that the screen is not readily visible in the machine. “Could it be improved by a large screen viewable by the public?”

When Comelec’s Ferdinand Rafanan said that the ballot will be about 2 feet long, CedForbes, another Twitter user, remarked, “with the ballot running as long as 20 inches with hundreds of names, is it really possible to avoid over voting?”

Some chatters were concered over the fact that the Comelec is releasing an exact number of ballots per precinct.

Sinisterspark remarked via Twitter, “if they only have an exact # of sheets, what if people make mistakes?”

Other chatters were concerned over the fact that the system does not yet incorporate biometric identification of voters. Chatter Shootthemoon said his skepticism over automation may “loosen up” if the machines can read fingerprints.

Skepticism, doubts

NinobelCanencia was more concerned over who will watch for the database server. “What if there are already pre-loaded results and the elections turned out to be just a dummy one?” She pointed out that the most important part of the automation process is the server because “that is where votes go.”

She said results would be easy to manipulate if (the server) is not properly monitored.

Some cynical chatters expressed doubts that automation will prevent cheating in 2010.

Jayson Iligan of Sitio Landing, San Rafael, Tarlac City pointed out in Tagalog that, “whether (elections) are automated or manual, if an official wants to cheat, he will be able to do so using his powers.”

On the other hand, taking note of the tendency of local politicians to complain that they were cheated if they lost in the race, a chatter who identified himself as an OFW from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, said, “I’m sure whoever will lose will use automation as the reason to say he got cheated in the elections.”

There were also those who highlighted the need for vigilance even under in given automated elections.

Call for vigilance

A guest chatter pointed out that, “there's no hack-proof in this world... let just be vigilant and pray.”

Chatter Levi said that instead of arguing about the process and the integrity of the system, everyone should simply act responsibly in voting and watch their votes until the closing of the precincts. After all, he said, most people will be on holiday during the election day.

“Change,” he said, “should not start [with] the leader we are voting [for]. Change [should] start in each of us. While we cannot change the Philippines in one day, we still can do something today in our small way.”

Chatter Marissa said as much. “An honest election is achieved if we, the Filipino people, will be part of ensuring that there will be no cheating. Let us watch over our votes.”

More to come

Moderated by Ricky Carandang and Pinky Webb, the forum gathered together groups behind poll automation in a 90-minute panel discussion. Guests include representatives from the Commission on Elections and Smartmatic-TIM, watchdog groups, IT experts, election lawyers, a public policy center, political parties and even local government officials.

During the event, volunteer Boto Patrollers “voted” in a demo session supervised by a teacher who actually served as a member of the Board of Election Inspectors in past elections.

Not all the viewers questions were answered on air. The show’s anchors later announced that the chat session would be extended to allow the panelists to respond to unanswered questions from the chatters.

Many thanked ANC for producing the event.

Nineteen year old Aysa from Baguio City thanked ANC through a text message saying, “this forum really helped me to understand what poll automation is.” She suggested that the Comelec “should provide a manual” that would include the frequently asked questions “especially on how to cast the vote.”

For her part, ANC Chief Operating Officer Glenda Gloria assured the public that there would be more similar activities to come. “Last night’s forum kicks off a series on voter education which is geared toward ensuring that all stakeholders are prepared for a first in our history—an automated nationwide elections.” – abs-cbnNEWS.com/ Newsbreak