1 million overvotes recorded in midterm Senate race: data

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2019 04:55 PM | Updated as of May 15 2019 06:39 PM

Members of the electoral board print copies of election returns at the Pres. Corazon Aquino Elementary School in Quezon City, May 13, 2019. Gigie Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Confusion, lack of awareness led to overvoting in May 13 polls: analysts

MANILA - Over 1 million overvotes for the Senate race were recorded during the May 13 midterm elections, a study done by ABS-CBN Data Analytics showed.

Of the 45,659,724 who cast their votes in the senatorial race as of 95.11 percent of election returns transmitted, a total of 1,170,331 had ballots with overvotes, which meant that these were not counted by machines.

Vote counting machines will only accept votes for senator if ovals next to names of up to 12 candidates were shaded, even if some positions were left vacant.

Former Commission on Elections chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the high number of overvotes was "alarming" and shows lapses in education campaigns for voters.

"There was just not too much publicity on the repercussion of an overvote or the simple statement na pag nag-overvote na mawawala 'yung boto (that when you overvote, your votes won't be counted)," he told ABS-CBN News in a phone interview.

Brillantes said voters may have also been confused on the supposed number of senatorial candidates that they should vote for given that both the administration and opposition did not field 12-member lineups.

For the administration, ruling political party PDP-Laban only fielded 5 candidates while regional party Hugpong ng Pagbabago endorsed 13 bets for 12 posts.

Opposition senatorial slate Otso Diretso meanwhile only had 8 candidates.

"That can be a case of not knowing how many candidates to vote for kasi ano ba ito? Ilan ba talaga iboboto?" University of the Philippines political science professor Jean Encinas-Franco told ABS-CBN News.

(What is this? How many candidates should I really vote for?)

"People got confused along the way kasi 8 'yung isa tapos sa isa naman 13 but you cannot fault parties."

Brillantes added that political parties and sectors that endorsed more than 12 candidates failed to remind candidates against overvoting.

"They did not even explain that you have to choose 12 especially for the blind followers who would just follow," he said.

URBAN VS RURAL

Metro Manila had the highest number of overvotes at 144,245, followed by Cebu at 82,015, and Cavite at 50,041 for the senatorial race.

Batanes, meanwhile, had the least number of overvotes in the country at 152 followed by Camiguin at 792.

Brillantes explained that there is a higher risk of overvoting among voters from urban areas since they tend to be more "independent-minded" than those from rural areas.

In small towns, voters have a more "personal attachment" to their local leaders, which is why they tend to strictly vote for candidates endorsed by their officials or those that are endorsed in the sample ballots handed out to them, Brillantes said.

"Kung sa local ka, may listahan na sila ng sample ballots. Sumusunod talaga 'yung tao diyan. Dito sa Manila, Cebu, Cavite, independent 'yung voters tapos magulo," the former poll chief explained.

(At the local level, they already have a list on sample ballots which people really follow. In Manila, Cebu, and Cavite, voters are independent and it's chaotic.)

Franco added that while voters in urban areas tend to have more access to election information, it tends to become a "double-edged sword" since this "must have also confused them."

POSSIBLE GAME-CHANGERS?

Overvotes could have also been game-changers for some candidates in the Senate race given that the difference in votes in the top 10 to 13 candidates are only by the thousands.

Nancy Binay, who is currently clinging to the 12th spot, is only ahead by some 200,000 votes of her fellow reelectionist, 13th placer JV Ejercito-Estrada, who has 14,007,000 votes as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, with 96.38 percent of election returns based on a partial, unofficial tally.

"Malaking bagay 'yung 1 million (it's a big thing). They could have been game changers in the close fight. 'Yung 10, 11, 12 especially sa close fight now," Brillantes said.

While the number of overvotes is relatively small compared to the total voter turnout, Franco said it could have defined the Senate race for the last 3 spots in the "Magic 12."

"Ang difference na lang kasi by the tens of thousands eh so those could have been game-changers too," he said.

STRICTER SCREENING, BETTER INFORMATION DRIVE

To lessen the number of overvotes in future elections, the Comelec should have a more pronounced warning against overvoting, Brillantes and Franco said.

"The Comelec should come out with a formula na mapu-publicize 'yung overvoting (to publicize [the consequences of] overvoting). Hindi lang siguro well-disseminated. Dapat linawin lang palagi," Brillantes said.

(It might not have been well-disseminated. It should just be clarified constantly.)

"What the Comelec can control is the public information campaign by informing the people they only have to vote [for] 12 candidates, they may not fill up the entire slate but they should not overvote," Franco said.

Brillantes also urged Comelec to screen better senatorial candidates, noting that 62 bets for senator are "too many."

"Ang solusyon, we have to be very strict in the screening of candidates. Mahirap mag-overvote kung kakaunti lang," he said.

(The solution is to be strict in the screening of candidates because it would be difficult to overvote if there are only a few [options].)