'Automated polls just like taking an exam'

by Reynaldo Santos Jr., Newsbreak

Posted at Sep 20 2009 02:26 AM | Updated as of Sep 20 2009 10:26 AM

MANILA - It may take 8 minutes and 4 seconds for a young voter to fill up the ballot in the upcoming 2010 automated election.

This is based on a time-and-motion study conducted by YouthVote, a network of youth groups that promotes voters’ education and empowerment, at the First Asia Institute of Technology and Humanities in Batangas.

YouthVote conducted on Friday a voting simulation that is similar to the real automated process, which includes checking names on the voters' list, filling up and surrendering of the ballot, and the indelible ink marking after voting. The simulation, however, was not able to use a real Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS).

The improvised ballot was designed based on the latest sample layout and size of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), with questions on 32 electoral positions and 339 "candidates" printed on both sides of the paper.

Close to 700 college students, all of voting age, participated in the event. A Comelec representative also witnessed the simulation.

“We thought it better to experiment and investigate instead of whining about automated elections,” said Jaime Garchitorena, YouthVote’s information technology lead.

YouthVote wanted to determine, through this study, "how it feels like for the youth to vote," and to determine whether the allotted 11 hours for voting on May 2010 would be appropriate.

'Just like taking an exam'

YouthVote garnered positive responses from the participants, who found the whole process easy. They likened the process to taking an exam.

“They’re already used to this type of questions,” Garchitorena said.

YouthVote revealed in an earlier conference that issues on secrecy and over-voting were noticed during the course of the simulation. The ballot was longer than the ballot secrecy folder, which made it visible to those near the voter.

There were 28 ballots considered void from the exercise because some participants shaded more circles than the required number asked.

Other than these concerns, YouthVote said there should be no other differences with manual voting.

“If there’s a problem in manual voting, there’s the same problem in automated voting,” Garchitorena said.

Big difference is speed

Comelec information and education director Jaime Jimenez stressed that poll automation should not lessen the number of Board of Inspectors, poll watchers, and seats to be allotted in each precinct.

Garchitorena said all safeguards for manual voting should also be done for automated polls.

“Everything we did before should still be done,” Garchitorena said.

Jimenez said the time-and-motion exercise proves that election automation can hasten the whole process of voting.

“This shows that it can be done,” Jimenez said.

The big difference between manual and automated is speed. Manual voting, according to Jimenez, takes up to 15 minutes to accomplish.

Based on its observations, YouthVote concluded that the challenge in election automation education should not be directed towards the youth, but to sectors of society that may be slow to grasp new technology, particularly the elderly.