On the Automated Election

The Correspondents was on TFC last night, and the episode was wherein the show organized a small mock election to see how a group of voters, from senior citizens to first time voters, would do using the new PCOS machine to be used in our country’s first automated election.

First let me say that I won’t be able to vote this year, because of some scheduling problems so I wasn’t able to register here in Tripoli as an absentee voter. It would’ve the first time I vote, but I guess I will have to wait it out again. And the more news and shows like that of last night on the questions and problems being raised about the whole thing is making me really regret that I wasn’t able to register. I would’ve wanted to take part in this historical event of our country taking a technological step for democracy, if only to add to those who are a bit optimistic about this and sees it as I do. I for one think that this is a move forward for the Philippines. Although I admit that there seems to be a lot of setbacks my biggest concern are not the technical aspects, but the voters themselves, especially after watching the show last night, and learning today that survey shows most Pinoys not knowing enough about the poll automation.

Anyway, so the show went through the mock election, led by Karen Davila who documented how the participants reacted to the whole process. Before they began the Comelec representative, briefly, and I think carefully discussed the things that the voters need to remember; some where (even though barely audible behind Davila’s narrating I could clearly hear) were that they should be careful with the paper, shade properly, READ CAREFULLY, and FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS.

Copied from Comelec official website

Before the participants, they first showed Davila herself voting, running the audience through the ballot sheet. She slowly read the Tagalog instructions, and through each position where it says example, “Senator” on top, immediately under it written quite clearly, “vote for 12”, and then the list of the candidates beside the oval to shade. Davila took out a list she prepared for herself, went through each name, finding it in the list, shading as instructed, and then going back through everything making sure she did things right, and went to place her vote in the machine, which congratulated her for a successful entry.

After Davila, the first person they focused on was a retired police officer, who although was a bit elderly looked to me was still very much on his toes. He brought along a cheat sheet for his candidates, and looked carefully taking his time with the ballot sheet. When he inserted his paper in the machine, he was told that he voted for 13 senators instead of 12 so his votes for that position are all void and will no longer be counted. Of course, he complained and said that seemed not right to him, very passionately saying that it cannot helped that someone makes a mistake, for we are all human after all, and that he felt bad that his votes would be wasted. The Comelec rep tried to patiently explain that the machine was not programmed to read 13 votes which is why it will not read his votes in the senatorial slot. When the man kept insisting the “tao lang, nagkakamali” (only human, can make mistakes) reason, the Comelec guy, in his most polite and respectful version, said that is why he was told to read carefully.  In his interview the man said he preferred going back to manual voting, stating that he found that easier.

The next was a woman who was probably around 40-50 years old, and at the beginning admitted that she has problems with her eyesight and is already having problems with her reading. She too got confused as to how many she should be shading in a certain category. Suggesting that they should enlarge the instruction on how many one should vote for in each category, because she had trouble reading it, finding it too small.

The third guy is a young first time voter, who also got confused despite his seemingly perfect eyesight, “Para sa’kin medyo mahirap din,” (To me it seemed difficult) he says.

As I watched I thought that if everybody who will be voting will be like the three they featured, then I say good luck to us all. I am aware that there are still again, a lot of questions whether or not the Comelec will be able to pull this through, and as far as the technical aspects are concerned I really hope they work it out, but as far as the Filipino voters are concerned I think that we should all bear a little more of the responsibility than those of the three featured in the Correspondents.

We force ourselves to learn how to withdraw money from an ATM, carefully going through the instructions because we have to. Heck, when cellular phones became big in the country, every man/woman, young and old, took time to learn how to send a text message. If we really value our votes as much as that elderly man, to fight for it when it wasn’t counted, then we should show it by starting with ourselves. I bet that man would not allow his human nature to make mistakes when placing his six lucky numbers betting in the lottery. We watch the news everyday of how much trouble it took to print those ballots, and asking for a reprint so they can enlarge a font size because you neglected to bring your reading glasses, is not exactly showing much effort to practicing your right to vote. Complaining about something we can work on ourselves is no longer, I think, the organizer’s problems.

I know it was only practice, but seriously. I mean this is your one chance, which may I point out only happens every few years, to truly take part in shaping our country; and if reading carefully, shading properly, and knowing the number of candidates you should be voting for (at least before hand) is all that stands between you and that chance, then I think this should be easy.

I asked someone once if he thought the Philippines is ready for this year’s automated election, he answered with a shrug and said, “Who knows? Pero kung ‘di ngayon, kelan?” (If not now, then when?). I agree; the people who will be running to make this election work has already too much to worry about; the least we can do is not add to it and do our best with it.


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