CLUSTERING OF PRECINCTS AND AUTOMATED POLLS A FORMULA FOR CONFUSION ON ELECTION DAY – BINAY

PRESS RELEASE
JULY 17 2009
REF: JOEY SALGADO

Unless the Commission on Elections (Comelec) takes the proper steps, Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay sees a chaotic election in 2010 with voters grappling with automated voting and clustered precincts.

Binay said despite the best-case scenario offered by Comelec and Smartmatic Inc., majority of Filipinos are still averse to new technology.

“The level of literacy, especially technological literacy, is still low particularly in the rural areas,” he said.

“And the pace of the voting will be dictated not by how fast the machines can count the votes but by how fast the voters can locate their precincts and how fast they can fill up the new ballots,” he added.

Such a “chaotic” scenario, he said, can prove to be advantageous to groups who are determined to sabotage the election.

“Those who are determined to sabotage the election for their selfish interest will find ways to exploit weaknesses in the new system. The clustering of precincts is one such weakness that the Comelec should address,” he said.

With the foreign supplier providing 82,000 counting machines for the May 2010 election, the Comelec said the 340,00 precincts will be grouped into three to five clusters, depending on the size of the barangays. Each cluster will be serviced by one voting machine.

Election Chair jose Melo said he expects the number of voters assigned to each precinct to increase to between 600 to 1,000 from the 200 to 300.

Both Comelec and Smartmatic had assured that the voting machine will be able to read the ballot in 2.75 seconds or less, so voters will not have to fall in line for a long period.

But Binay said Comelec and Smartmatic should prepare for a worst-case scenario, especially since this will be the first time that voting machines will be used.

“Will the voters be ready and prepared for automated elections in May 2010? This is the question that needs to be addressed,” he said.

The opposition leader said some advanced countries and some states in the United States are already taking a second look at automated polls.

“These countries and states realize that familiarizing voters with automated election will require a longer period and these are countries with high literacy rates,” he said.

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