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Voting in malls might compromise elections, solon says

A lawmaker on Tuesday expressed reservation about the proposal to allow voting for the 2016 local and national elections in malls, saying "political operators" might find a way to influence voters in such an open set-up.

Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro, chairman of the House committee on suffrage and electoral reforms, said that while the Omnibus Election Code allows the voting to be held in public buildings, there is a possibility that the conduct of elections might be compromised if voters were allowed to cast their votes inside malls.

"Considering that voting will be done in malls, there will be other obstructions present that might disturb the solemnity of elections. In addition, the control hasn’t been defined. Control might be very hard insofar as malls are concerned," he told reporters in a news briefing.

Even if a certain portion of a mall will be converted into a polling place, Castro said it will be difficult for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) to monitor voters’ activities since a shopping center in itself is conducive to mingling with people who might not be inclined to vote, such as regular mall-goers and political operators for certain candidates.

"For all we know, the people mixing with the voters are political operators," he said.

Instead of malls, Castro said Comelec should consider private schools as alternative polling venues if public schools are already congested.

"If the purpose of the Comelec is to decongest existing rooms per precinct in elementary and high school, then this isn’t a problem since under the law, there is no prohibition barring the poll body from making private schools as polling precincts,” he said.

Comelec chair Andres Bautista last week said the poll body is mulling over setting up poll sites in malls to reduce the number of voters per precinct and decongest public schools.

Bautista said allowing voters to cast their votes inside malls will also help improve their experience since shopping centers offers several amenities.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal, however, said the move might be “impractical” if the 2016 polls will be automated because the ballots are precinct specific. —KBK, GMA News