By DJ Yap | Inquirer.net
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is “wary” of having multiple polling days for the May 2022 general elections and prefers—at least for now—longer hours on Election Day along with an expanded early voting system.
“As far as two to three days of elections [are concerned], there has been a lot of concern about that. There’s a lot of worry about what happens at night,” Comelec director James Jimenez told the Senate electoral reforms committee on Wednesday.
“We are a bit wary of [proposals for] two to three day elections … The predisposition of Comelec right now is to have longer election hours,” he said.
Jimenez was asked by the committee chair, Sen. Imee Marcos, to comment on the viability of having multiple election days to mitigate the risks posed by voting in crowded polling precincts during the national and local elections.
The panel had called the hearing to discuss proposed Senate Resolution No. 412 filed by the Senate finance chair, Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, who sought the inquiry “to assess the preparations of the Comelec for the 2022 national and local elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.”
“There is still a need for Comelec to work on a new operational approach to deliver an election in the context of a pandemic and postpandemic, putting utmost priority [in the] health and safety of the voter, especially the vulnerable members of the electorate,” Angara wrote in his resolution.
Prioritize the vulnerable
Marcos commented that because of the pandemic, the physical requirements of the elections might have to be adjusted, like holding it in stadiums, limiting the crowd to 500 voters per precinct and expanding the coverage of early voting mechanisms.
Jimenez agreed that bigger spaces and more personnel might be needed. He added that it was also a good idea to give priority to vulnerable sectors, among them senior citizens and persons with disability, in the early voting system.
“Right now, early voting is limited to government officials and media,” he noted.
As for mail-in voting, the Comelec official said the polling body was open to the idea, with the caveat that this would be dependent on the reliability and efficiency of the postal service.