THE election watchdog National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) proposed that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) switch to a modified hybrid version of counting votes to assure that the process is transparent.
Guesting at SMNI’s weekly public affairs program “Business and Politics,” hosted by The Manila Times Chairman and CEO Dante “Klink” Ang Jr., Namfrel President Lito Averia said the 2022 elections may have proceeded smoothly, “but not without issues.”
He cited allegations of irregularities such as the replacement of secured digital (SD) cards and cheating during transmission, which could be easily resolved if the Comelec opens the vote-counting machines’ “log” to scrutiny.
“We have access to a transparency server, and we don’t see any questionable results,” Averia said, but “there are issues being raised on speed, accuracy or integrity of the counting, and we have always asked the commission to grant us access to the log.”
A vote-counting machine’s log provides a digital record of every transaction and operation that it performed.
“So if a member of the electoral board intervenes in the process at specific points, for example closing the count or starting the counting, each of those events is recorded,” Averia, an election technology expert, said.
If questions arise about the counting process, “we would like access to the log for transparency so that we can tie them together. We would be able to put together that posting of events, all the way down to the transparency server, the central server and the results published by the commission on the website,” he said.
Averia reiterated the proposal of former Namfrel president Gus Lagman that the votes should be counted manually at the precinct level and to upload the election returns immediately to a public website to enhance transparency and accuracy.
He said that under the automated election system, the public and election watchers no longer see how the votes are counted and how returns are transported from the precinct to the board of canvassers of the city or city counting centers.
“How the ballots are read and recorded are all done by the [vote counting] machines. You don’t see that anymore. That’s the heart of discussion coming to hybrid elections,” he said. “The idea of the hybrid elections system is again bringing that level of transparency like manual count of votes at the precinct level and then at the end of the count, electronically encoded and transmitted to the board of canvassers.”
Averia pointed out that the first time the hybrid election was proposed was about nine years ago, and assuring transparency has since become more difficult because of technological advances.
He said Namfrel is proposing two methods for counting votes under the hybrid system.
One version is to use the voter verification paper audit trail (VVPAT) which served as the voter’s receipt.
“Use the VVPAT to do the count so it’s faster, and display on the wall the recorded receipt for everybody to see. So everybody can see that once the QR code is read, the count is reflected, the count is transparent,” Averia said.
During last year’s polls, a quick response or QR code was incorporated for inputting the voter’s choice of candidates.
The second version involves the “ballot making device.”
“Instead of writing down the names of candidates of your choice, you tap the screen for example, and once done with the selection before the ballot is printed, it will verify and ask you to confirm whether the selections are correct. Once you confirm your selection then it would print and that piece of paper would be dropped into a ballot box,” Averia said.
“At the end of the voting, we do the counting. Again, that ballot is machine-readable, and we can base the count on that machine-readable ballot,” he said.
Averia admitted that the process would be longer by two to three hours than usual, but “we ensure everybody sees the vote and everybody sees the count.”
He said elections need to be transparent and accurate to regain the public’s confidence.
The hybrid process proposed by Namfrel could achieve that goal, he said.
Ads by: Memento Maxima Digital Marketing
SPACE RESERVE FOR ADVERTISTMENT