Comelec traces glitches to low-quality SD cards, aged counting machines

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 14 2019 02:38 PM

Voters in a cluster precinct in Pinagbuhatan High School in Pasig City manually submit their ballots due to a malfunctioning VCM that misreads their votes since the polls opened. Voters may opt to withhold their ballots until a replacement VCM arrives, but majority have left it to the electoral board. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said there were more glitches in the 2019 elections compared to the 2016 polls, as it lamented using low quality secure digital (SD) cards and 3-year-old vote-counting machines (VCM). 

Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said these glitches were expected, given the prices of the crucial poll materials. 

"[You have] low quality SD card, due to lowest bid...so what would we expect," Casquejo told reporters Tuesday. 

Commissioner Sheriff Abas said 1,665 SD cards were replaced in the midterm polls compared to just 120 in 2016. At least 961 vote- counting machines were also replaced, versus the 801 pulled out of precincts in 2016. 

Abas said unlike in the 2016 elections where they used bundled materials from winning bidder Smartmatic, this year's polls utilized SD cards, markers, papers from different suppliers. 

"Hindi nagmamatch pero wala kami magawa dahil sa procurement law, hindi pwedeng bundle," said Abas. 

(The supplies don't match but we couldn't do anything because of the procurement law. We are not allowed to do a bundled bidding.)

The unbundled system allowed more companies to bid for specific components unlike in the past when very few could afford the entire project, a poll lawyer earlier said

Casquejo said Comelec expected problems due to low quality SD cards and semi-outdated VCMs. 

"We used the VCM in 2016 and what to expect from 3-year-old VCM machines? There may be some mechanical defects while in storage, while pinadala machines baka nakalog [ang] machines, and [ang] SD cards ay naging maluwag and then [got] unsynchronized," Casquejo explained. 

(The machines could have been damaged while in transport, or the SD cards may have loosened and then unsynchronized.)

Apart from voting glitches, Comelec also faced criticisms over the delay of real-time election results to its media partners. 

The Comelec had said problems arose in the transparency server because of an application error.

The delayed transmission also fueled speculations of cheating, as netizens bewailed the 7-hour gap between the first two transmissions of unofficial results that brought midterm poll tallies from just 0.4% within minutes after polls closed to 90% completion around 7 to 8 hours later. 
 
#HalalanDayaan2019 raged for hours on Twitter, garnering at least 21,000 tweets as of 5 a.m. Tuesday after it was first used around 10 p.m. Monday, four hours into the gap in the sending of partial, unofficial results by the Commission on Elections (Comelec). 

Many of the comments expressed dismay over the loss of the opposition candidates. Others, many of whom are young voters, criticized the elections.