Hybrid election system pushed

October 20, 2019

A HOUSE leader has pushed for a hybrid election system (HES) that calls for the manual voting and counting of ballots at the precinct level and the electronic transmission and canvassing of votes by the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. LRay Villafuerte said his proposal would enhance the transparency and credibility of the almost decade-old automated election system (AES).

Villafuerte said his proposal is necessary to address the glitches that have cropped up ever since the AES was first adopted in the 2010 polls.

Proof that glitches remain in the computerized system and requires an urgent revisit of the AES adopted by the Comelec is the fact that 40 election complaints have been filed in the past four automated elections from 2010 to 2019.

“This condition cannot be allowed to continue unabated because the political and economic stability of our country is paramount,” said Villafuerte in his proposal outlined under House Bill (HB) No. 3896.

Villafuerte said under an HES, “any attempt to manipulate the electronic transmission and canvassing of election results can always be checked and audited against the one true count made at each and every polling precinct across the country. The good old manual counting of the votes will effectively serve as the bulwark against the ever real and present danger of automated manipulation of election results.”

Adopting a combination of the manual and automated processes will enhance the transparency, auditability and credibility of the elections and will ensure that we will have a fully transparent, cleaner, and more orderly balloting and counting from 2022 onwards, he said.

“This bill seeks to overhaul the present automated election system by repealing the existing automated election laws and replacing them with a hybrid election system that combines both manual voting and counting and electronic transmission and canvassing of election results,” said Villafuerte.

Villafuerte said his proposed HES promotes and enhances the crucial transparency, auditability and credibility requirements of the elections through by the open and public counting of the votes, in contrast to the AES, which he said lacks transparency and auditability because only the voting machines knew how the votes were counted.

“This has seriously affected the credibility of our elections,” he said.

Under the HES, Villafuerte said only a maximum of 200 registered voters is proposed for each established precinct because the voting time is limited.

This will do away with the chaos, long queues and disenfranchisement of voters under the AES, which has between 800 and 1,000 registered voters per precinct, according to him.

Villafuerte said that under his bill, there is a prohibition  against contracting out or outsourcing the printing of official ballots as a stringent security measure against massive fraud.

The AES has no such prohibition, he noted.

In his proposed HES, he pointed out that there is a provision mandating the adoption of process flows and measures for mandatory and uniform implementation to facilitate a more convenient voting journey in order to avoid chaos, long queues and disenfranchisement of voters, which has become the hallmark of the AES.

There is no such or similar provision in the AES, he said.

“Under the HES, there is a provision against pre-shaded ballots, which, if present, shall constitute a prima facie evidence of electoral sabotage and a conspiracy to commit massive electoral fraud. There is no such or similar provision in the AES,” said Villafuerte.

Under his bill, the counting of the votes shall be manual, open and public to insure maximum transparency and credibility. The counting shall immediately follow after the closing of the polls in the precincts and must be completed by 3 pm of election day.

“In the AES, the counting of the votes is automatically made by the voting machines without the public ever knowing how the votes were read, appreciated and counted. Because the AES is totally opaque, there is absolutely no transparency, Villafuerte noted.

In cases of discrepancy between the manual and election returns, HB No. 3896 states that the manual election return shall prevail.

“Necessary corrections, with sufficient safeguards, are allowed on the electronic election return in order to conform to the manual version, unlike in the AES, where there is only one version of the election return, which is the electronic one transmitted to the board of canvassers,” Villafuerte said.

In the HES, it will be mandatory for the Comelec to post the electronic files of all election results from all the polling precincts and the electronic files of all the certificates of canvass on its official website.

“Such posting is required to be simultaneous with the electronic transmission of election returns and/or certificates of canvass, and shall be continuous and without significant interruption,” Villafuerte said.

HB No. 3896 also contains several other safeguards to ensure the integrity of the ballot, prevent fraud, and plug loopholes that could lead to cheating—from the procurement of materials and equipment to be used in the elections up to the time that the votes are counted and canvassed on election day.