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Comelec advisors pick OMR technology for 2013 elections

The Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) has officially recommended to the country’s elections body the adoption of Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technology in the 2013 elections.


In an exclusive interview with Louis Napoleon Casambre, executive director of the Information and Communications Technology Office (ICTO) and chair of the CAC, said the council has already sent two resolutions to the Comelec recommending the use of OMR technology.

It is now up to the Comelec to decide whether or not it would adopt the recommendation of the CAC. If the poll body decides to stick with the CAC recommendation, its next step would be to pick the type of OMR technology that will be used in the elections.

The country also used OMR technology, specifically PCOS (precinct count optical scan), in the 2010 national elections.

The choice of OMR technology means that Smartmatic, the contractor in the 2010 elections, can still sell its machines used in the previous elections to the government should the Comelec again select the PCOS type for the 2013 polls.

However, Comelec Commissioner Gus Lagman, an IT expert and known critic of the PCOS technology, is advocating the use of a “cheaper” poll technology called Open Elections System.

But it is the Comelec en banc which will decide which type of OMR technology – if it indeed adopts the CAC recommendation – to be used in next year’s elections.

Republic Act 9369 tasks the CAC to recommend to the Comelec “the most appropriate, secure, applicable and cost-effective technology to be applied in the Automation Election System (AES)”.

Casambre said there is still enough time for the Comelec to make the necessary preparations, including the bidding of the contract and actual implementation, for the 2013 elections.

The CAC chair said they chose OMR technology over DRE (direct-recording electronic) because the latter is just too expensive and does not have a paper trail.

In its resolution, the CAC said it recommended OMR technology for the following reasons:

  1. Use of OMR machines will be easier for the BEIs to use;
  2. Makes voter education easier;
  3. Use of paper-based ballots assures higher auditability;
  4. Proven technology
  5. Public acceptance of the technology;

The resolution, however, said the use of OMR technology should incorporate important features such as:

  1. Standard and verifiable digital signatures for the machines and personnel;
  2. Accurate, reliable, and preferably universal time stamps;
  3. Appropriately secured machine access facilities;
  4. Availability of on-screen voter verification;
  5. Scanner should store raw scanned data and provide ballot authentication;
  6. Machine printouts should be preserved and have a life span of six years;
  7. Printouts should have serial numbers, time stamps, and unique machine identifiable features such as MAC address;
  8. Technology process should be render-able to voter’s education materials;
  9. Source code and circuit schematics should be open for review;
  10. Audit logs should be available;
  11. Forensics of the hardware as part of the process of qualifying the technology provider;
  12. For any purchase, consideration be given by the Comelec to cost of storage, facility for storage, reliability of hardware over time, and cost of money.

Apart from Casambre, other members of the CAC who signed the resolutions are Alberto Muyot of the Department of Education, Fortunato dela Pena of the Department of Science and Technology, Rommel Feria of the University of the Philippines, Henrietta T. de Villa of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, Luie Tito Guia of the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (Lente), George C. Kintanar of the CIO Forum Foundation (CIOFF), Rogelio V. Quevedo of the Philippine Electronics and Telecommunications Federation (PETEF), and Bettina G. Quimson of the Philippine Software Industry Association (PSIA).