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Comelec to hold hearings on plan to hold voting in malls

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is keen on moving some polling precincts to nearby malls during the May 9, 2016 polls.

Comelec chair Andres Bautista told reporters on Friday said, "Obviously that's the direction we're headed to. Pero magpa-hearing muna tayo because we want to hear out [the other sectors]."

He added that political parties and voters from proposed precincts will be invited to the hearing, which is expected to be held in November.

A technical working group has been formed to look into mall voting. The biggest challenge, he said, is determining how many precincts may be moved.

He said precincts to be assigned at malls will have to be determined by December 15.

"To manage expectations, ililipat lang 'yung located near the barangays where the malls are located, at titingnan kung ilan ang puwede," he said.

Bautista disclosed that the poll body's law department said mall voting abides by election rules.

"Sa kanilang palagay, ito ay sumasang-ayon sa Omnibus Election Code. Ayon rin sa Salingang Batas, Comelec can determine polling precincts," he said.

Some legislators and election watchdogs earlier expressed reservations on the initiative, saying it might compromise the elections with "other obstructions."

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the move might be "impractical" if the 2016 polls will be automated because the ballots are precinct specific.

Bautista pointed out that mall voting would not be the first time private establishments are used for elections, with 41 venues used in 2013, including schools and basketball courts.

He said mall voting will be more convenient to the public, and may ensure faster voting with better structures, which will be important even in transmission of votes.

It will also help decongest public schools, he added.

Bautista led a walk-through of a mock mall voting set-up at Robinsons Magnolia on Friday morning.

He then checked the ongoing voters' registration in the said mall and found long queues despite only eight days before the October 31 deadline.

He told reporters augmentation teams will be sent to areas with many registrants to help speed up the process.

ASked if he was disappointed that there are still long lines despite a long period of registration, Bautista replied, "Kapag ganiyan, you have to move on, basta gawan na lang ng paraan."

He also downplayed the possibility of extending the registration, saying, "Baka maantala 'yung ating paghahanda para sa halalan." -NB, GMA News