MOCK ELECTIONS. Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) in Bagong Pag-asa Elementary School in Quezon City remove election results after transmitting. MOCK ELECTIONS. Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) in Bagong Pag-asa Elementary School in Quezon City remove election results after transmitting. Photo by Joel Liporada/Rappler

How to prevent cheating with the vote-counting machines

Know the weak features of this animal called the VCM that the unscrupulous might exploit on election day

The Internet is the Wild Wild West of information, that searching for the right and accurate often poses a challenge. Given the approaching elections in the Philippines, one subject of many wrong information and misconceptions is the vote-counting machines or VCMs that will be used at the precincts on May 9.

Let me discuss 10 things about the VCMs – not just the machines’ best features, but their weak spots as well. This, so the public may know what to watch out for if we want clean and credible elections.

1. VCMs cannot prevent vote buying. It may even facilitate it if the safeguards against the misuse of voting receipts are not strictly implemented.

The voting machine is not a panacea to all our election problems. All it does is read the ballots, count the votes, and transmit them to the next level for canvassing. Everything else is up to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), watchers, and other actors. Vote buying, for example, is conducted usually before polling, usually the night before. Preventing it requires the concerted efforts of the police and the community.

There is, however, a danger that voting receipts, as the Commission on Elections feared, may be used by candidates to verify and validate if the voters they paid have lived up to their agreement. While supposedly only the voter can see the ballots and the voter receipts, polling precincts – which are usually small and crowded – don’t really afford the voter full and complete secrecy. Some BEI members can be lax; others, partial. While watchers can be unruly and sneaky, voting receipts may be abused and used to facilitate vote buying.

Should this happen, the public and other watchers can invoke Comelec rules. These include requiring watchers to stay only in their reserved seats or spaces, and prohibiting the taking photos of ballots and receipts.

2. Ballots are precinct-specific.

This means that each VCM is configured to recognize and accept only ballots customized and pre-assigned to a precinct. The VCMs can receive only a specified number of ballots, equivalent to the number of registered voters in that precinct. Any ballots fed in excess of the pre-determined number of ballots, or those ballots coming from other precincts, will be rejected by the VCM.

In 2010, when I lawyered for a candidate in Tawi-tawi, my colleagues and I noted that the PCOS machine (forerunner of the VCM) in a precinct was able to detect ballots from another precinct on an island a sea away. These ballots were rejected by the machines in the earlier precinct. We took this as proof that no election happened in the entire municipality despite the 100% turnout of votes. Voting was done by a few people in one basketball court, as reported.

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Read 2267 times Last modified on Wednesday, 04 May 2016 16:01
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