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Just before the year 2009 ended, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) came out with the general instructions (GI) for the country’s very first automated national elections in May 2010. What will happen on election day? According to the GI, the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) will meet at the polling place at six o’clock in the morning of May 10, 2010 to first ensure that all the election paraphernalia are ready. They will then post a copy of the Posted Computerized Voters List (PCVL) at the door of the poll precinct. But before voting is conducted, the BEI chairman will show the public and the watchers present that the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machine, package of official ballots, and book of voters are all duly sealed. After showing the election materials, the BEIs will set up the PCOS machine. Upon installation, the poll machine will automatically print an initialization report showing that no votes have yet been cast nor counted.
What should a voter do? Upon arriving at the precinct, a voter should look for his or her name at the PCVL near the door of the voting center to determine his or her precinct number and sequence number. The voter will be instructed to give these pieces of information to the BEIs together with other personal information. After his or her identity is verified, the name of the voter will be read out loud to give chance for any contention. If uncontested, he or she will be given a ballot by the BEI chairman – only upon ensuring that the said voter has yet to cast his or her vote in another precinct. The voter will be instructed to fill out his or her ballot using a secrecy folder and a marking pen provided by the Comelec. He or she must fill out the ballot by fully shading at least 50 percent of the oval beside the names of the candidates and party-list group of his or her choice. He or she must then approach the PCOS, insert his or her ballot in the poll machine’s entry slot and wait until the ballot is dropped into the semi-transparent ballot box. If the ballot is rejected, the BEI will allow for another re-entry, but if rejected again, the voter will not be issued a replacement ballot. After that, the voter is expected to return the secrecy folder and marking pen to the BEI chairman. The BEI chairman will in turn apply indelible ink at the base and extend it to the cuticle of the right forefinger nail of the voter, who will then be instructed to affix his or her thumbmark in the space in the Election Day Computerized Voters List (EDCVL). What happens after voting? The GI says that after the voting, the BEI chairman will record the quantity of unused ballots, which will be torn in half lengthwise. One half will be given to the election officer for safekeeping while the other half will be placed in a compartment of the ballot box. The BEIs will then close the voting by entering several codes into the poll machine, which will make the PCOS unit print eight copies of the election returns for national positions and another eight for local positions. The BEI chairman will publicly announce the total number of votes received by each candidate, which will also be posted on a wall within the polling place. After 48 hours, he or she will take the list and keep it in his or her custody. On the other hand, the PCOS unit will transmit the election reports using a transmission cable and a modem. If successful, the reports will be transmitted to other precincts, the Comelec mainframe, its other offices, and other stakeholders. After transmission, the poll machine will print 22 more copies of the election returns, a copy of the audit log report, and a copy of the statistical report. Where do the votes go? The Comelec said that the eight initial copies of election returns will be sealed, placed in an envelope and sealed again. The poll body said that the election returns will be distributed to the city or municipal board of canvassers, Congress, Comelec, four accredited citizens’ arm, dominant majority and minority parties, ballot box, 10 accredited national parties aside from the first two, two accredited major local parties, four national broadcast or print media entities, two local media outfits, and one to be posted on a wall within the polling place. Upon termination of the counting of votes at the precinct level, the BEI shall place inside the ballot box the sealed envelopes containing the election returns, minutes, and half-torn and rejected ballots. The ballot box will be locked with four locks, one of which is self-locking and is serially numbered. The keys to the three other padlocks, on the other hand, will be placed in separate envelopes that are to be sealed and signed by the BEIs. Meanwhile, the PCOS will be turned over to the support technician in the voting center. Earlier, the Comelec said each clustered precinct will have at least three BEIs. It said that they plan to tap about 245,000 teachers to serve as BEIs in next year’s polls. Poll machine supplier Smartmatic-TIM, on the other hand, said that they will be deploying about 48,000 technical support crew. It said that they will deploy one technician for every two precincts. The poll body said that there will be about 37,062 voting centers and 74,427 clustered precincts. Each clustered precinct will have one PCOS machine, each of which can supposedly accommodate up to 1,000 voters. For more information regarding the 2010 polls, you may visit GMANews.TV’s microsite Eleksyon 2010 and its web election primer Your Vox. - GMANews.TV