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Expecting more accredited party-list groups, Comelec sees longer ballots in 2016

Voters might end up filling out longer ballots in the 2016 elections because of the Supreme Court’s ruling saying party-list groups need not represent marginalized sectors, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said.

Speaking to members of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms Tuesday, Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said 243 party-list groups had expressed interest in participating in next year’s polls as of May 8, the deadline for party-list registration.

“Assuming the 243 party-list would be allowed [to participate in the 2016 elections] and given accreditation, the obvious effect would be that the ballot would become longer. It would be more difficult for the voter to be secret about his choice considering the longer ballot,” he said.

A total of 123 party-lists were included in the ballots in the 2013 elections.

Lim said party-list groups are expected to have an easier time obtaining accreditation as a result of the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Atong Paglaum v. Comelec case.

“It will be the party-list’s fault if it won’t be accredited. It’s that easy [to get an accreditation],” he said.

Not from marginalized sectors

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said Republic Act 7941 or the Party List System Act does not require national and regional parties to represent marginalized sectors. The SC listed down the "new parameters" it has decided to adopt in the qualification of national, regional and sectoral parties under the party-list system.

The SC decision was based on the petitions filed by 54 groups disqualified by the Comelec from participating in the 2013 elections for failing to prove they represent the marginalized sector, having nominees who do not belong to the sector they seek to represent, and for the lack of a track record.

Comelec Executive Director Jose Tolentino Jr. said the poll body was considering reviving voting booths for next year’s elections instead of merely providing voters with folders to cover their ballots.

The Comelec is eyeing the lease of 100,000 optical mark reading (OMR) voting machines for 2016 so that the number of voters per precinct would be lessened from the current average of 1,000 to around 700 to 800. -NB, GMA News