Better to count, tally votes as they are cast

- Federico D. Pascual Jr. - The Philippine Star

CLEAN COUNT: The Commission on Elections has turned down suggestions for a parallel manual count as one way of testing or validating the integrity of the automated count on Monday, May 13.

Having put all its bets on the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, the Comelec does not want to be distracted from its goal of delivering a clean election using full computerization.

But there are other ways of minimizing dagdag-bawas (plus-minus) tampering of the vote where fake returns are manufactured and sneaked into the final tabulation to favor prearranged winners.

The cheats have graduated from tampering paper returns to high-tech manipulation of results before these are electronically transmitted to provincial and national file servers.

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REAL-TIME COUNT: One way to an honest count is to have continuous, real-time transmission of the votes AS THEY ARE CAST instead of first gathering them for sending in one burst after the close of voting.

As ballots are cast, the score should be simultaneously updated at the local and national levels. Then everybody sees the running tally – leaving no more time for electronic dagdag-bawas.

If we want transparency, that is it.

With thousands witnessing the vote buildup, there would be an upheaval if candidates’ votes as shown in the running real-time tally turned out to be different from the canvassing total reported at the end of the day.

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TRANSMISSION TRAFFIC: The Commission on Elections has discarded the security measure required by law for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) to electronically authenticate the returns before sending them at the close of voting.

For better or for worse, the BEI signatures have been replaced by the mechanical validation by the PCOS. With the takeover by the computer, continuous transmission of the votes as we suggest here is technically possible.

Tabulating the votes as they are cast will ease transmission traffic. It prevents the piling up of data waiting to be sent later in the day in one burst from the precinct to the provincial and the national servers.

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PROBLEMS: But while the continuous transmission and tabulation of the votes is technically feasible, there is no more time until Election Day to rewrite the program to insert this scheme.

Another problem is that any trend that may be reflected in the public running score may unduly influence late voters. Many people tend to vote for candidates just because they look like winners.

To minimize this bandwagon problem, the real-time tabulations need not be broadcast (such as flashing them on big boards for public viewing), but kept for a short while by the Comelec and copies given to political parties and accredited poll monitoring groups.

This sharing of the non-stop canvassing results is in the same spirit as in the old system of certified copies of paper tallies being given to all key stakeholders.

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LIKE THE LOTTO: While it is quite late now to adopt and refine this idea, real-time counting and transmission of the votes can be considered for the next elections in 2016.

Its broad lines can be likened to the Lotto system of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office where bets are transmitted in real time to the central server and the jackpot results known within minutes of the draw.

If the Sweepstakes office using overworked computers transmitting big-volume lottery data through overloaded telephone lines can do it, there is no reason why the Comelec cannot adopt a similar or better scheme.

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RIDICULOUS: We are amazed by the Comelec attempt to meddle in the banking system by limiting daily maximum withdrawals to P100,000 and prohibiting the carrying of more than P500,000 till Election Day.

The ridiculous reason given is that such “big” amounts might be used for buying votes. Thank god, the banks spurned the Comelec’s meddling.

Even non-lawyers can sense instantly that such intrusion is beyond the authority or competence of the poll body, whose Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. loves to mention that he is a veteran lawyer.

If I carry P500,000 or if I need to withdraw more than P100,000 in one banking day, that is a personal matter – and none of the business of the Comelec whatever it suspects are my intentions.

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VALUED CLIENT: The stonewalling by the Comelec chief on the reliability of the PCOS and the integrity of the last elections can be explained by the fact that President Noynoy Aquino was his valued client in the 2010 polls.

Brillantes can be expected to defend to the death the conduct and results of the 2010 presidential elections that saw his client winning the automated count.

This is not to question the victory of Mr. Aquino. But our minds should be open to the danger signals that there was PCOS failure in some precincts and computerized manipulation of some election results.

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INHIBITION: Instead of covering up or ignoring the documented complaints, the Brillantes-led Comelec should listen and take positive action to remedy the defects of the automated system.

An increasing number of progressive countries have abandoned electronic voting for being unreliable and against the democratic spirit of the people directly and freely choosing their leaders without the intervention of machines.

In fact, Brillantes should inhibit himself on matters pertaining to his beloved PCOS and the conduct of the past election where he was the lead lawyer of one of the presidential candidates.

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RESEARCH: Access past POSTSCRIPTs at manilamail.com. Follow us via Twitter.com/@FDPascual. Send feedback to fdp333@yahoo.com


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