Comelec records 400,000 new registrants during extended period

Robertzon Ramirez - The Philippine Star
Comelec records 400,000 new registrants during extended period
Security personnel assist individuals in observing health protocols as they queue for the issuance of voters' certificates while others came for the continuation of the voter registration at the Comelec satellite booth inside the SM City Masinag in Antipolo, Rizal on Oct. 18, 2021.
The STAR / Miguel de Guzman, file

MANILA, Philippines — At least 400,000 new voters have been added to the list of registered voters for the May 2022 general elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said yesterday.

Comelec spokesman James Jimenez told One News aired over Cignal TV/TV 5 that the number of new voters surpassed the poll body’s expectations of around 300,000, noting the figure will still increase in the remaining days of the registration period.

The voter registration will end on Oct. 30, after it was extended from its original deadline of Sept. 30.

“I think we might have exceeded the target. I don’t have the final figures in yet, but early indications show that we’re closer to 400,000 than 300,000. It looks like we really did exceed our expectations even for this extension,” Jimenez said.

“There’s still more coming actually and we expect the crowd to be getting larger as we get closer to the deadline,” he said.

Jimenez said the poll body had reached its target of 65 million registered voters for the 2022 elections, including the 63 million locally registered voters as well as the 1.6 million overseas voters.

The figure is way higher than Comelec’s projection of 59 million voters.

He said the extended voter registration period is doing fine except for minor complaints about not being able to get accommodated after staying in line for a long time, especially at the satellite voter registration venues.

Simulation: Low turnout

The Comelec noted a low voter turnout during the conduct of a voting simulation at the San Juan Elementary School on Saturday.

The voting simulation was part of preparations for the May 2022 general elections.

“We were hoping to have 4,000 actual voters, but we only had around 11 percent voter turnout. That was very low. Again, this was not expected to be a high attendance event in any case,” Jimenez said as he attributed the low voter turnout to people’s mentality of not joining simulation exercises.

He said the simulation exercise is important as it serves as a dry run for the 2022 elections.

Meanwhile, poll watchdog Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) urged the Comelec to conduct another voting simulation following the low voter turnout in San Juan.

LENTE executive director Ona Carlitos attributed the low voter turnout to missing election day stakeholders such as poll watchers, health personnel and electoral board members and insignificant use of the holding room area.

“These reasons prevented the election commission and the stakeholders like us to observe a simulation close to an actual election day exercise to enable us to assess if the proposed guidelines are enough to ensure the safety of all election stakeholders,” Caritos said.

LENTE recommended that the Comelec set up a voting center entrance with separate lines for vulnerable sectors, voters’ assistance desk, emergency accessible polling place, isolation polling place and polling place set-up.

It said separate lines for the vulnerable sector should be put up at the entrance of the voting centers as well as triage for voters who are sick and showing symptoms of COVID.

Registered voters who are COVID-positive or those in isolation facilities should not be allowed at the voting centers, but the Comelec should find a way to ensure that these voters will not be disenfranchised.

“The Comelec should highlight the health protocols in their communication plan,” Carlitos said, adding more staff should be assigned at the voter assistance desk.

To avoid the bottleneck that was observed during the simulation, LENTE said voters should be provided with means to know in advance their precinct and sequence number.

“Precinct finder should be launched already, the voter information system should be maximized for offline voters,” the watchdog said. – Evelyn Macairan

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