Malaya - Exam-style voting better than automation?

24 June 2019

By Myla Iglesias | Malaya

The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) has proposed alternative voting methods wherein voters could cast their ballots using freehand, barcode stickers and “exam style” which could replace the current automated election concept hopefully in time for the 2022 polls.

In response to President Duterte’s directive to explore other election technology providers, Eliseo Rio Jr., DICT acting secretary, presented systems that combine the speed of electronic counting and the transparency of manual counting.

Rio emphasized that the speed of counting should not compromise voter intent.

“Injustice is an understatement when the will of the people is hostaged by the inability of the vote counting machines to accommodate infirmities, all in the name of speed,” he said.

Under the freehand method, handwriting-recognition software will be used to recognize the names that voters jotted down in their respective ballots.

The barcode stickers method will feature a sticker sheet that contains a barcode for each candidate per electoral position. Voters then peel off the respective stickers of the candidates they wish to elect, and stick those in the corresponding areas of their ballots.

Finally, the exam style is a format like the current ballot, with circles that the voter has to shade on. Instead of names, however, each electoral post will have numbers (corresponding to a candidate) that must be shaded.

Another proposal is the ballots should no longer be fed by the voters themselves. All ballots will be kept in a box and will be fed into the vote counting machines at the end of the voting period.

Rio said this will allow election inspectors to see each ballot as these are fed into the machine and view the counts in real-time. The inspectors will then review if the ballot is counted correctly, at which point they will push a button to confirm if it is indeed so.

In all three methods above, each ballot will have a unique QR code, so it can only be counted once no matter how many times it is fed into the machine.

Part of DICT’s proposal is to integrate an optical character recognition software technology in the system. It was suggested due to the number of objections from concerned citizens against the automated election system of Smartmatic.

Meanwhile, Jose Tolentino Jr., Commission on Elections (Comelec) executive director, had some reservations about the proposal as it goes against the right to voter confidentiality.

Rio was open to the criticism and said the DICT will come up with other methods to present at the DICT Automated Election System Technology Fair on July 15, 2019.

“Our proposal is anchored on making the elections more credible and transparent,” said Rio, who also chairs the Comelec Advisory Council. “We will continue to study this so that we can know what to improve and hopefully, be adopted in time for the 2022 Elections.”

Rio said the proposal will be submitted to Comelec for its consideration.