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Comelec to hold first internet voting test run from September 11 to 13

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The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to hold the first part of its internet voting test run from September 11 to 13 with technology supplier Voatz.

In a virtual briefing Wednesday, Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez said the test run will start at 8 a.m. (Manila time) on September 11 and will end at 8 a.m. (Manila time) on September 13.

The voting list will be posted on the official Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) Facebook page, showing the participants’ last names, first names, then middle initial.

Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, the commissioner-in-charge for overseas voting, said the test run with US-based firm Voatz is “at no cost” to the poll body.

Aside from Voatz, the Comelec will conduct test runs with Indra and Smartmatic within September.

Guanzon acknowledged the Comelec OFOV and the Department of Foreign Affairs for pushing the project despite the difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Precisely, this pandemic shows us that a mobile app voting will be necessary in the recent future. As you know, Congress has to pass a law to make this possible. But if this project test is successful, I have no doubt that the senators and the congressmen and congresswomen, will fully support the mobile app voting in the future,” Guanzon said.

“When we have mobile app voting in the future for overseas voters, we’ll save the Comelec and the Philippine government a lot of money in terms of, you know, courier service, transportation, and the most important thing is that our overseas voters will have easier access to vote especially those who are seafarers and those who cannot leave work in order to vote,” she added.

Asked if the Comelec plans to make mobile app voting an option in the future elections within the country, Guanzon said if the test run yields good results, then the poll body might ask Congress to pass a law for its implementation.

“If these test runs are efficient, effective, and cost-effective, I will recommend to the commission en banc that we request Congress, the House, and the Senate, to consider passing a law to use mobile app voting in the future,” Guanzon said.

“If we are looking at 2025, that is quite possible because that is another three years from now, but the cost, the budget may be a consideration,” she added.

Guanzon said if the next administration will certify this as urgent, then Congress can allocate budget for the internet voting system.

Among the criteria that the OFOV is looking at before they push for the implementation of the internet voting system are the security, access of voters, and cost, she said.

Guanzon noted that it is "impossible" to use this mode of voting in the 2022 national and local elections.

In June, the Comelec has signed memorandum of agreement (MOA) with three solutions providers for the live test runs of internet voting systems.

According to Republic Act 9189 or the Overseas Voting Act, Comelec is authorized to explore internet-based technologies for overseas voting.—AOL, GMA News

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