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Mail-in ballots for overseas voters a waste – migrant rights group

(Updated 3:27 p.m., Nov. 19, 2013) A large percentage of votes sent by post has gone to waste since the system of voting for overseas Filipinos was put up in 2004, a migrant rights group said Monday.
"We've been doing that since 2004... and we know that a large percentage of postal votes are wasted," said Henry Rojas, legal counsel of the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) during a conference with the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on the amended overseas voting law.

Citing figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Rojas in his paper said 20 percent of mailed ballots in the 2004 elections returned undelivered while 8 percent were invalidated due to lack of voter's signatures on the envelope.
Meanwhile, in the 2007 elections, those who returned their ballots to the sender and those who did not claim the ballots comprised 29.43 percent of total postal voters, while 51 percent of mailed ballots were presumed to be received but not cast by mail, Rojas said citing Comelec figures.
However, the CMA still has no figures on the 2010 and 2013 elections, Rojas said.
Rojas said ballots either failed to reach the voter or the ballot box when cast. The postal ballots come from the Comelec's main office.
"We have to find out why the ballot does not come back to the ballot box," he said during the conference.
For his part, Comelec commissioner Lucenito Tagle said the wastage may be due to registered voters giving wrong or outdated addresses. He could not cite the figures.
"Mali-mali ang addresses eh. Dalawang addresses kung minsan... Marami ring lumilipat without notifying the Comelec," Tagle said.
Tagle said the poll body usually sends the ballots to registered overseas voters 45 days before the elections.
He said the Comelec is fixing the problems of postal voting by notifying the voters early on before the elections.
"Sinusulatan na namin ng maaga kung ano ba talaga ang address nila," Tagle said.
At least 19.3 percent and 19.92 percent of overall registered voters opted to vote by post in the 2007 and 2010 elections, according to a 2011 CMA policy paper posted on their website.
Overseas voters may also personally appear in the voting centers in embassies to cast their ballot. The Comelec is mulling the possibility of internet-voting to a common complaint of having to travel far to reach voting centers.
The old overseas voting law has been amended by Republic Act 10590 to address the dismal turnout in the elections. Comelec data shows overseas elections registered a 16 percent turnout in 2013 elections, lower than the 25.99 percent turnout in 2010.
The Comelec has been meeting with migrant stakeholders to finalize the draft implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the law. The Comelec is expected to approve the IRR early December. — JDS/RSJ, GMA News