Comelec seeking automated system for more transparent midterm polls
MANILA, Philippines—In a bid to make the 2013 midterm elections more transparent, the Commission on Elections will be looking for automation technology that would show the public how votes are tallied at the precinct level.
Comelec Commissioner Augusto Lagman said the concept of an “automated tara system” came up during one of the brain-storming sessions of the poll body.
“It’s like feeding the marked ballot into the computer and showing it counted like the ‘tara’ system. To me, that will solve the main objection to automated counting, where it cannot be seen by the public,” Lagman told reporters.
Under the old manual voting, stick figures or “taras,” grouped by fives, were used to indicate votes for a particular candidate listed on tally sheets displayed on during the precinct-level canvassing. The members of the precinct’s Board of Election Inspectors take turns publicly reading the names of the voted candidate and marking the tally sheet.
The Precinct Count Optical Scan machines used in the country’s first-ever automated national elections in May 2010 eliminated the manual tallying of votes. Instead, each machine, at the end of the voting period, produced the complete and final tally of votes per candidate on a strip of paper. The tally was electronically transmitted to local and national canvassing centers.
Lagman said the future voting machine could have a liquid-crystal display screen as well as projector that would flash on a wall the number of votes per candidate as each accomplished ballot is being counted.
This, he said, would enable, assure the public as well as the candidates’ watchers and election monitors that every ballot is being tallied and that votes are correctly counted.
“This proposal is the only one that I have seen, so far, that I am happy with,” added Lagman, who was one of the staunchest critics of the PCOS machines when he was still an official of watchdog National Citizen’s Movement for Free Elections.
The commissioner said the poll body has begun studying the “automated tara system” to determine if it can be integrated in the voting technology that would be selected for the 2013 polls.
“It’s still just a loose idea,” he added.
Lagman said the system can be developed and owned by Comelec or bid out to a private company, which, according to Lagman, he prefers to be Filipino-owned. He said the system could also be given to a foreign contractor provided there would be close direction and supervision by Comelec.
The Comelec will be in charge of the automated canvassing system.
The Comelec Advisory Council, tasked to select a suitable election technology for the 2013 polls, is expected to come out with a recommendation before the middle of the January 2012.
Republic Act No. 9369 or the 2007 Amended Automated Election System Act, requires the CAC to recommend “the most appropriate, secure, applicable and cost-effective” voting technology.
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