'Wrong data in CF cards may cause PCOS reading errors'


Posted at May 04 2010 01:45 PM | Updated as of May 05 2010 03:52 AM

MANILA, Philippines -  An IT consultant on Tuesday said wrong configurations of the compact flash cards in the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines may have caused glitches in reading votes for the local races.

IT expert Lito Averia of AES Watch said the failure of PCOS machines to read votes for local positions during mock PCOS tests in various municipalities could be traced to the design of the ballots. Averia said the Commission on Elections decided to change the listing of the names on the ballots from a vertical list to a horizontal list.

Averia said the PCOS machines are configured to read which ovals are shaded on the ballot based on the "intersections of the longitude and latitude of the ballot."

"The machine will expect to check if the ovals are shaded. I think that set of data was not properly configured or properly prepared. The machines read the ballots in 2 phases, the national and local. When the machines read the local, I think it got lost somewhere. It's not the configuration of the machine. The machine is somewhat confused because you're giving it the wrong directions. It is looking here when it should be looking somewhere else," he told ANC's Dateline Philippines.

Averia said the wrong configurations affected only the local positions and did not seem to affect the national positions.

An abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak report on Monday said vote counting machines in at least 4 localities failed to correctly read the ballots and tally the votes during mock polls, affecting local positions and raising concerns that a scenario is being created by some quarters to revert the conduct of the polls to the manual system. (Read: Local bets get zero votes as PCOS machines malfunction)

Some candidates for local positions in Pasay City; Makati City; Sto. Tomas, Batangas; and Mamburao, Occidental Mindoro got zero votes despite the fact that their poll watchers accomplished the ballots, and should assure them of as many votes in the results.

The malfunctioning of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines spared no political parties and didn't appear to target particular positions.

The malfunctions prompted Comelec to postpone all further testing and sealing of the PCOS machines throughout Luzon (including the National Capital Region), Visayas and Mindanao to May 7. (Read: Errors force Comelec to reset PCOS testing)

Averia said Smartmatic-TIM has to recall all compact flash cards that have been deployed and reconfigure them to read votes for the local races in all 1,630 municipalities and districts in the country.

"They have to prepare the proper data for each ballot configuration. The Comelec has 1,630+ ballot configurations corresponding to the number of municipalities and districts. They have to prepare the correct data and put that into the flash cards. That is easy to do. The biggest challenge is logistical, recalling all those compact flash cards that were deployed, bringing them back to Smartmatic for reconfiguration and then delivering them back to the polling precincts. That would be the major challenge."

Averia said the cards have to be in proper containers, not exposed to water, dust or magnetic fields. "Dust particles can get into the contact points. Smartmatic is using industrial grade flash cards, unlike the consumer grade," he said.

He added that IT professionals had earlier proposed a parallel manual count because there was not enough time to prepare for the electoral exercise.