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Metro

Comelec leases 3,540 more vote counters

Sheila Crisostomo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has leased 3,540 additional optical mark readers, now called vote counting machines (VCMs), for P133,466,600 for the May 2016 local and national polls, an official said yesterday.

In a press briefing, Comelec Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said they decided to place a “repeat order” with Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) Corp. because of the expected increase in voters next year.

Lim – who chairs the Comelec’s steering committee for the 2016 elections – added the Comelec also had decided not to pursue its plan to reuse refurbished precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for next year’s polls but will reuse them in the 2019 midterm elections instead.

The Comelec earlier arranged to lease 93,977 machines from Smartmatic and this brings to 97,517 the total number of VCMs the poll body will lease.

Comelec records show that some 54.5 million individuals registered for the coming elections.

While the figure is expected to go down as Election Regulation Boards are currently hearing petitions for the disqualification of voters and the Automated Fingerprint Identification System is screening for double and multiple registration, the number of voters next year is still expected to exceed the 52 million voters in the 2013 polls.

The Comelec also had to revise its planned clustering of established precincts from only 92,000 to 93,647 because of the expected increase in voter population.

Lim said this will enable them to maintain their target of a machine-to-voter ratio of 1:800.

“Considering that there is an 80 percent voter turnout, we are expecting about 600 to 640 voters actually turning out per machine. It will lead to a shorter queuing time,” he said.

The Comelec has also decided to increase the number of VCMs for overseas absentee voting to 124 units in seven jurisdictions. In 2013, there were only 67 VCMs assigned to OAV.

“There will be a lot more jurisdictions overseas that will have automated voting. We will discuss the jurisdictions by next week, which jurisdictions will be added,” said Lim.

He added the Comelec always maintains four percent of the total number of VCMs as backup units so the poll body can immediately replace VCMs that fail on election day.

According to Lim, Smartmatic had offered to refurbish without upgrade a total of 6,000 units of PCOS for free but they decided not to use the machines anymore since the results they produce “will not be read by the new canvassing and consolidation system.”

The Comelec also required Smartmatic to equip the VCMs with a “detection system” for digital lines that were found in some ballots coming from the PCOS machines in the 2013 elections.

The Comelec also found some “administrative issues” that may crop up if they use the PCOS units, such as having to split the Comelec’s technical teams and the need for hold more biddings for the supplies and consumables to be used in refurbishing the units.

“It’s too cumbersome. These are the reasons why we decided, considering also the shortness of the time as well as the complexity of the project, to rather exercise the repeat order,” Lim said.

ACIRC

AUTOMATED FINGERPRINT IDENTIFICATION SYSTEM

COMELEC

COMELEC COMMISSIONER CHRISTIAN ROBERT LIM

DECIDED

ELECTION REGULATION BOARDS

ELECTIONS

LIM

SMARTMATIC

SMARTMATIC-TOTAL INFORMATION MANAGEMENT

VCMS

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