Comelec scraps mall voting plan


MANILA - The Commission on Elections announced Wednesday it is dropping plans to conduct mall voting in the May 9 elections.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista said the en banc voted 4-3 not to push through with the mall voting after approving the proposal last month. At least 86 malls were supposed to be used as voting centers before the plan was junked.

Bautista said the proposal was meant to enhance the voting experience so that more registered voters will exercise their right to vote in the election. However, there were arguments on whether or not the voting precincts should already be transferred to the malls 45 days before the elections in compliance with the law.

"The issue was in respect to this 45-day transfer, that the interpretation was whether or not the approval and the transfer should happen 45 days before the election. What was being discussed was the approval happened on March 10, which is 60 days before the election. But what the others were saying is they should have transferred the precincts already to the mall. But when you think about it, the transfer actually happens on Election Day itself," he said in an ABS-CBN News Channel interview.

"Just because you designate a certain place as a voting precinct, you don't immediately transfer it there. Same thing with the schools, when you transfer say voters to a particular school, the school does not automatically become a voting precinct for the next 45 days," he added.

Critics earlier raised questions about the mall voting plan, saying the Omnibus Election Code orders the closure of stores, stalls, and other types of vendors within 30 meters from the voting place on May 9.

They said the law also prohibits the use of private buildings to be used as polling places and that the whole building, not just a portion, where the polling place is located must be put under the control of Comelec.

Bautista apologized to voters who were already notified about the mall voting that the plan will not push through.

Is mall voting illegal?

Earlier, eight mall chains offered their malls as voting areas. These are SM Supermalls, Ayala Malls, Robinsons Malls, Gaisano Grand Malls, Megaworld Lifestyle Malls, Pacific Malls/Metro Gaisano, WalterMart Community Malls, and Fisher Mall.

Comelec did not include malls owned or connected to candidates.

The poll body earlier said that moving the clustered precincts inside malls will decongest public schools serving as polling areas.

Bautista added that malls are also generally cleaner, safer and more convenient polling places compared to regular schools.

Survey shows strong support for mall voting