Glitch mars absentee vote in 2 HK precincts


Posted at Apr 11 2010 08:17 PM | Updated as of Apr 12 2010 08:25 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Glitches temporarily stalled the second day of voting for overseas Filipinos in Hong Kong Sunday, raising fears that the same could happen on a larger scale in the May 10 nationwide polls.

A TV Patrol World report said precinct count optical scan machines deployed in Precincts 15 and 16 in Hong Kong refused to accept filled-up ballots of some overseas workers. Two replacement machines that were on standby also failed to accept the ballots despite repeated tries by Commission on Elections personnel.

The glitches delayed voting at the 2 precincts for almost an hour until the Comelec decided to let the voters transfer to a different precinct.

Officials from Comelec and poll automation supplier Smartmatic-TIM said the ballots seemed to have been affected by the airconditioning while the PCOS machines also seemed to have been affected by humidity inside the precinct.

"A window was left open so one machine did not work. That's why we have contingency plans and backup plans," Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told reporters.

After a few minutes, the first PCOS machine started working properly and started accepting the ballots.

Officials said if the PCOS machines continued to malfunction, voters would be allowed to continue filling up ballots before these are scanned in PCOS machines in other voting precincts.

The Department of Foreign Affairs earlier said a total of 4,141 Filipino overseas absentee voters already cast their ballots after the first day of voting in the different Philippine Embassies and Consulates General around the world.

As of 11:20 a.m., the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong had the most number of ballots cast with 997, followed by the Philippine Embassy in London (558), and the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh (266).

Rounding out the top 10 in terms of voter turn-out are: the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago (242); the Philippine Embassy in Singapore (218), the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah (180), the Philippine Embassy in Berlin (144), the Philippine Embassy in Madrid (135), the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok (118), and the Philippine Consulate General in Barcelona (117).

The first day of the overseas voting went smoothly and orderly in most, if not all, of the overseas precincts monitored by the DFA Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat.
In a report to the DFA, Consul General to Hong Kong Claro Cristobal said that the first-ever elections under the new Automated Election System (AES) began in Hong Kong with an ecumenical prayer service followed by the blessing of all ten rooms where the 20 precinct clusters at the Bayanihan Kennedy Town Center are located.

The precincts opened at exactly 8 a.m. Voters started the process of voting by checking with the bank of seven computerized voter search terminals manned by volunteers to locate their respective precincts. As voters made their way to their precincts on the upper floors of the voting center, marshals were on hand to provide assistance.

The first Filipino to vote in Hong Kong was overseas Filipino worker Rowena dela Cruz. It took her roughly one-and-a-half minutes to complete the process of voting for a president, a vice president, 12 senators and a party-list organization.

Seventeen would-be voters were unable to find their names on the Certified List of Overseas Absentee Voters (CLOAV). The helpdesk constituted by the Consulate General immediately informed the Commission on Elections (Comelec) about these cases.

Voting in Hong Kong will run from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, Mondays to Fridays, and 8:00 am to 6:00 pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Hong Kong statutory holidays until May 10.