Comelec looking into mail-in voting for senior citizens, PWDs for 2022

Comelec looking into mail-in voting for senior citizens, PWDs for 2022
In this Sept. 1, 2020, photo, an elderly woman is assisted while registering to vote in Pasig City.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Elections is mulling a vote by mail option for senior citizens and persons with disability (PWD) in the 2022 elections to safeguard them from the lingering threat of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

If this policy is approved, persons over 60-years-old and PWDs will no longer to have to cast their votes in-person. Instead, ballots will be sent to their home which they will fill out and mail for counting. 

"In fact, ang postal voting or mail-in voting, we do that for overseas voting. Comelec just wants to widen this include domestic voting," Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told GMA News' "Unang Balita" in English and FIlipino on Monday. 

"Perhaps we should first identify particular voters. For example, senior citizens or persons with disability who can use mail-in voting," he added in Filipino. 

A few days ago, Rep. Stella Quimbo (Marikina) filed House Bill 7572 which contains the same proposal. 

Those aged 60 and over are said to be at high risk of developing a "severe illness" from COVID-19, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) in June revealed that most of those who died of the virus in the Philippines were 60 years old and above. 

Several other countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand allow various iterations of voting by mail. 

In addition to postal voting, Jimenez said that Comelec is looking to develop other alternatives to in-person voting such as casting ballots online.  

Around 4 million eligible Filipinos still unregistered

Later the same day, during a Laging Handa briefing aired over state-run PTV, Jimenez logged less than 250,000 Filipinos who registered to vote in the upcoming election in the last few weeks. According to the Comelec spokesman, this number is relatively small compared to previous years. 

"In pre-COVID, ang ganyang numero NCR lang 'yan. (Before the pandemic, these numbers would have accounted only for Metro Manila)," he said. 

Jimenez added that they expect these numbers to pick up, citing a total of about 4 million Filipinos who are eligible to register. 

The Comelec spokesman encrouraged the public to either set an appointment or call the commission in advance to make sure that their district's office is not closed for disinfection on the day they plan to register. 

The country's next elections are slated to take place in May 2022, during which 18,084 seats will be open to candidates across the country —including that of the president, the vice preseident, senators, and party-list representatives. — Bella Perez-Rubio with a report from James Relativo

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