The Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the National Printing Office (NPO) is set to print over 67 million official ballots for the 2022 national and local elections.
During the virtual walkthrough on the ballot printing, the Comelec said there are six units of machines that will print a total of 67,442,714 ballots for the upcoming polls, of which, 1,697,202 are for overseas voting while 65,745,512 are for local voting.
These ballots will contain security features such as QR codes, security and timing marks, and invisible ultraviolet authentication marks.
According to the Comelec’s presentation, these will ensure that only legitimate ballots will be used on May 9, 2022.
The official ballots will also be stamped with serial numbers, after which, it would undergo a verification process where each ballot will be visually verified and will be tested in the vote counting machines (VCMs).
After the verification process, it would undergo quality assurance where the physical appearance of the ballot will be evaluated.
This visual check will ensure that the margin allowance is correct and the security marks are properly printed on the paper.
Ballots that did not pass the quality assurance process will be “quarantined” and will be evaluated as some could still be retrieved.
Once the ballots are properly evaluated, it will be turned over to the shipping and packing committee, which the Comelec said, is a very “critical” step as each ballot is “precinct-specific.”
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez and Deputy Executive Director for Administration Helen Aguila-Flores both said that the official start of the printing of the ballots for local voting is expected on January 20.
Aguila-Flores said they will prioritize the printing of the ballots for overseas and local absentee voting as early as tomorrow.
“Tomorrow, as soon as we are able to manage the dependencies, we are already ready to print the manual ballots for overseas voting as well as the ballots for the local absentee voting,” she said.
“We are printing them ahead of time because as we all now the overseas ballots will have to be deployed abroad and the voting abroad is one month in advance,” she added.
Under the memorandum of agreement between the Comelec and the NPO, the budget for the printing of the ballots is set at P1.3 billion.
The last batch of official ballots is scheduled to be printed from April 12 to 21. These are the ballots that will be used in the National Capital Region.
Aguila-Flores assured that this is a “very modest timeline” and it already includes a buffer period for contingencies.
“For the apprehension that this pandemic situation will really hamper our timeline, actually we are foreseeing that, there is a contingency plan to come up with a reserved pool of workers,” she said.
“We have also adopted strategies such as batching of workers and coming up with a reserved pool of workers just in case particular cluster are affected [by COVID-19]. We are prepared for that eventuality and we are really hoping that we would be able to finish the printing on time,” she added.
The Comelec also assured that security personnel are also guarding the NPO while the printing of the ballots are underway.
Personnel from the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Philippine National Police, and the organic security of the Comelec are deployed at the NPO compound.
The virtual walkthrough on the ballot printing was attended by Comelec chairman Sheriff Abas.
The 2022 national and local elections is set on May 9, 2022. — RSJ, GMA News