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How Will May 10, 2010 Be Like And Other Questions Seeking Answers

February 1, 2010

Fact: In the past there were 329,389 precincts throughout the country.

Through the magic of clustering, that is the merging of adjacent or neighbour precincts, the number was brought down by the COMELEC to 85, 316 as of July 20, 2009.

But the COMELEC still had a problem: the number of voting machines under the supply contract with Smartmatic/TIM was only 80,136 with 2,064 spares.

So the poll waved its magic wand and voila, by ‘re-clustering’ the precincts there are now 75, 471 precincts nationwide.

The COMELEC says through this sleight of hand, errrgh, administrative remedy there are 6,739 surplus units which should be sufficient to serve as backups during the elections.

That’s because only one voting machine will be deployed per cluster.

Simple enough, right?

But there’s a fine, disturbing print:

Instead of the earlier 3 combined precincts in a cluster, there are anywhere from five to seven voting centers merged.

By previous COMELEC edict there are a maximum of 300 voters per precinct, give or take  last minute transferees.

So under the old clustering of 3 voting centers, each voting center would, at most, have 1,000 registered voters. Fine.

But now with the re-clustering, the number of voters per clustered precinct has ballooned to at least 1,500 (for 5 combined centers to as much as 2,000  or 2,100 on election day!!!

Each voter in each precinct will be using the voting machines for the first time.

A source with years of experience told me, “if it takes each voter one minute to fill up the ballot — which will have more than 200 candidates — it would take 2,000 minutes for everyone to cast his or her vote. That’s more than 33 hours!”

My source notes how in the past, with  manual voting,” countless precincts had to extend the voting hours. This was when the typical precinct had between 200 to 300 voters.”

The Comelec’s estimate of about 1,000 voters per precinct does not tally with the estimated number who are actually expected to cast their votes. The percentage of registered voters who actually cast their votes is usually higher during presidential elections than mid-term elections,

Consider further:

The official ballot, given the number of candidates from President down to the Senators, local officials and party list representatives, will be 26 inches long by 9 inches wide!

Each voter in each precinct will be using the voting machines for the first time with him having to gingerly insert the ballot into the PCOS machines take up slot for it to ‘read’ the ballot, assuming it has not become crumpled and that the voters has not over voted, or did not shade more than the number of slots for the electoral position.

Now the automated data transmission scenario: all the 75,471 PCOS machines, being SIM-enabled, will automatically dial the designated telco exchange in their area.

  • Will the texted vote tallies  zip through seamlessly?
  • Could it happen that the telco cellsite/s “cannot be reached’ or the data being sent will be queued, as what happens of ‘heavy data traffic days’ with the telco exchange/s swamped by the flood of text messages.
  • Down the line to the local and regional canvassing centers in the hours after the close of voting, will the allocated digital data bandwidth be able to adequately  handle the traffic?
  • Exactky how sage from hacking, from cyber terrorists are the COMELEC’s mainframe data transmission and canvassing serverrs?
  • What failsafe actions are in place beyond what the COMELEC says is its readiness “to undertshe at least a 30% manual count on May 10 if there is a partial falure of the automated election system”?
  • Should that poll body not consider a parallel track of automated and manual counting of votes as some have proposed?
  • Who’s really running the elections, COMELEC or has it effectively outsources its constitrutional chores to Smartmatic?

We are, of course, told that there  GBANs o global broadband area networe satellite uplinks for outlying precincts or those in areas where there are week or no telco cellsites.

And not to worry further, COMELEC and Smartmatic tell us: we are doing further PCOS field tests culminating in a mock election – a rehearsal of the full automated vote count transmission and counting.

Given the ‘glitches’ in the earlier field trials, Filipinos have their fingers crossed and rosaries in hand for the mock election not turn into a mockery of the electoral process.

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