Fully automated failure in 2010 elections, says JDV3

September 15, 2009 § Leave a comment

Philippines China BroadbandIs the automation plan designed to fail? It seems like it, says IT businessman Joey de Venecia III. For Joey, who exposed the rotten ZTE-NBN deal, the Commission on Elections must resolve some “very serious issues” before proceeding with full automation for the May 2010 polls.

Joey pointed some very serious issues relating to full automation, one of which is the time it takes a voter to cast his ballot. If we automate fully, that would take a great amount of time (8 minutes per voter) than we normally do in previous elections.

Joey de Venecia III says COMELEC must conduct a time and motion study.

“The Comelec should conduct a time and motion study first before taking such a gung ho attitude to automation,” he said. “I’ve conducted informal studies on this matter alone and they indicate that it may take up to ten times longer for every voter to complete the voting process.”

Since the number of voting precincts will be reduced, there will be more voters massing in them next year, he said.From more than 200,000 voting precincts in the past – usually the nation’s public schools – the number will be reduced to 80,000. This means that the number per precinct will increase threefold.

Then there is the new ballot. De Venecia said that the Comelec’s newly-designed ballot is double sided and will have some 300 names of candidates to choose from unlike in the past wherein the voter only had to fill in the names of his choice of president, vice president and 12 senators.“The time it will take to fill in the ballot will likewise increase substantially,” according to de Venecia.“If it took a minute to complete one’s ballot before, it will now take three or even four minutes, given the new form that the electorate is not used to.”

Under an informal time and motion study conducted by de Venecia, the typical voter will have to look for his new precinct, join a much longer queue, then fill in a type of ballot that he has never seen before.“Everything points to a chaotic May 2010 election,” said the son and namesake of former Speaker Jose de Venecia.

“I don’t want to seem like some kind of prophet of doom, but the chaotic voting day scenario could lead to a failure of elections. What this can lead to is anybody’s guess.”

De Venecia is pushing for full automation to be applied only in the National Capital Region. He said if voting goes smoothly enough in Metro Manila, then full nationwide automation can be applied in the barangay elections in the latter part of 2010.

“There are so many things that can go wrong, not just the extra long hours it will take for every voter to finally cast his ballot,” said de Venecia.The voting machines need to be manned by 47,000 trained technicians, he said.

Smartmatic, the foreign company which won the bid to automate the elections, “is an IT firm and not a recruitment agency,” he said. “Where will they find 47,000 qualified technicians?”De Venecia also said he was concerned that the results would be forwarded to the Comelec headquarters in Manila electronically, meaning through Smart, Globe and possibly Sun, the country’s three major telcos.

In far-flung areas, or in areas where the three companies have insufficient signals, the results would have to be forwarded through satellite bounce. Systems loss could alter the results of the presidential elections in a tight race.

The same would be true for the senators fighting it out for the ninth to 12th slots.“A two percent systems loss for the country’s 40 million voters translates to 800,000 votes not being properly counted,” said de Venecia.At worst, chaos on election day could be used as an excuse by the Arroyo administration to declare emergency rule, even martial law, warned de Venecia.

Meanwhile, a failure of elections in May 2010 would result to a power vacuum, says Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile in the regular Kapihan sa Manila hotel yesterday. I was there when Enrile said that a possible failure declaration could result from a faulty automation plan.

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