Comelec eyes alternative voting machines
Mayen Jaymalin (The Philippine Star) - March 29, 2015 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is eyeing the use of other computerized voting machines in the May 2016 elections should the Supreme Court decide against reusing the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body is considering the use of 23,000 optical mark reader (OMR) units.

“If we push through with the bidding now, we will have 23,000 (OMR) machines. So we can do it. It can be done. It’s really just a question of how you’re going to marshal your resources,” Jimenez said.

The Comelec earlier started the bidding for the OMR that will be used to supplement the existing PCOS machines.

However, the possible reuse of the PCOS machines for the May 2016 elections is being questioned before the Supreme Court (SC).

Though fewer machines can be used if the high court rules against PCOS, Jimenez said Comelec is still not giving up on computerized elections in 2016. The poll body had used less units in past automated elections nationwide.

According to Jimenez, Comelec will adopt the Central Count Optical Scan (CCOS) system if the OMR machines will be used.

He said the adoption of CCOS is already being discussed, including the possible number of counting centers.

With the CCOS, the OMR units will be placed in one central area, where the paper ballots will be scanned and read by the machines, instead of making them precinct-based like the PCOS.

OMR and PCOS machines are both paper ballot-reading machines.

Jimenez though admitted adopting the CCOS system may still be difficult since it will require the physical transfer of ballot boxes, which would pose risks of ballot snatching and violence.

Jimenez said poll officials are also worried about possible congestion of the CCOS in scanning and reading ballots.

“In the counting areas, between 10 to 15 precincts will be assigned with each precinct having 1,400 voters. So you could just imagine the congestion,” he explained.

The SC issued last week a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the negotiated contract between the Comelec and Smartmatic-TIM for the diagnostics, repair and refurbishment of the PCOS machines.

Poll officials said they cannot risk using the PCOS machines again without undergoing the necessary repair and refurbishment.

Thus, the Comelec had to adopt a contingency plan due to the possibility that SC will permanently junk the P268.8-million contract for the repair of PCOS machines, he said.


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