Long lines and broken machines

THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez - The Freeman

You would think with overseeing previous elections, the Commission on Elections would learn from the problems that arise on election day. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Voters were greeted last Monday with long queues, broken Vote Counting Machines (VCM), and other issues that only make it harder for voters to cast their votes. In one barangay in Quezon City, the queue was very long and moved at a snail’s pace. My two nephews who started queuing at 8:30 a.m. finished by 5:30 p.m. Nine hours lined up, most of it under the sweltering heat of the sun. Troopers, for sure.

Others went to their respective barangays early only to be told to return at three in the afternoon because the VCM of their precinct was broken. Three o'clock became five o'clock, and five o'clock became "just come back later" because the replacement machine or whatever was not yet available or they were given the option to cast their vote then the ballots would be sent to the Comelec for manual counting. Many refused this condition. I suspect there were those who no longer returned, annoyed at what happened. There is a lane for seniors and persons with disabilities, but the queue was also long and chaotic. I also don't understand why elections are held in barangay halls that cannot accommodate a large precinct population. Only five or six people at a time could cast their votes. Why not set up a school with a gymnasium or at least, many classrooms that can accommodate larger batches of voters per precinct? Is it a question of not wanting to spend more for a bigger venue and added staff at the cost of voters’ accessibility and comfort?

I’m sure this is not the case in gated wealthy subdivisions or villages that have their own barangays. They have large clubhouses where they can vote with ease, not having that large a population. Maybe the only problem Comelec staffers encounter would be those feeling entitled and wanting to vote right away even if they have just arrived.

These are the things the Comelec should take note of. I have no argument over the claims transmission of results was much faster in this election than in previous ones. Well and good. But they should not ignore the fact that more than double VCMs broke down compared to the last election. There should have been replacement machines ready and not have to get them from faraway places like Santa Rosa, Laguna, for a precinct in Quezon City. Three years between elections is more than enough time to foresee problems. The Comelec did announce the VCMs used in the last three elections will be retired. Nothing was said about replacing them with new ones which would entail a huge budget or refurbished for the next elections. Aside from getting new machines, they should also consider the venues. Making it comfortable for people to vote should be paramount even in the most depressed of barangays.


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