Comelec says automation may fail, but not polls

By Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 17 2010 09:41 AM | Updated as of Apr 18 2010 05:25 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The clock is ticking for the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to finish preparations for the country's first automated polls.

Many fear the elections will end up in chaos and failure.

But the Comelec has tried to assure voters that the elections will proceed smoothly.

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento said the elections will not fail, insisting that the poll body has a back-up plan in case the machines bog down.

The Comelec said if the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines conk out, there are almost 6,000 spare machines that can be used.

This was what the poll body did when 2 machines malfunctioned in the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) in Hong Kong over the weekend.

If the Comelec runs out of spare machines, Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) can transfer the compact flash card of the PCOS to another machine where the votes will be counted.    

In case of a problem in transmission, the SIM cards of the modem can be interchanged, a satellite facility can be used or the compact flash card containing the election results can be brought to the canvassing center.

If all these contingency measures fail, the Comelec said the votes can still be counted manually.

Forms for manual elections are being printed in case automation fails in some parts of the country.

Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said they are prepared for a 30% failure of poll automation by resorting to manual elections.

The Comelec added that the National Printing Office is about to complete printing the 50 million ballots needed for election day.

As of posting time, only around 7 million ballots have yet to be printed.

Failure of automation, not failure of elections, the Comelec said, is the worst that can happen to this year's polls.

And even if it happens, the poll body assures the country it will eventually have a new set of leaders.