Manila Bulletin - More Pinoy voters prefer automated elections, study shows

News & Interviews
27 October 2020

By Leslie Ann Aquino | Manila Bulletin

Filipino voters have expressed an increasing preference for automated election system (AES), a study showed.

In an assessment of the “credibility” of the 2019 mid-term elections presented during the Stratbase ADR Institute virtual town hall discussion on “Democracy Goes On: Elections & Electoral Continuity Post-COVID-19” on Oct. 27, Dr. Ador R. Torneo and Prof. Topin S. Ruiz of the Department of Political Science at De La Salle University said this was due to the credibility, transparency, accuracy, and speed of releasing results over the past four elections.

Their study has also determined that the 2019 mid-term elections can be considered credible and well-run based on several factors.

“Automation of elections has improved the transparency of certain aspects of the electoral process. Having transparent elections means that the electorate has access to processes and information,” the authors of the study said.

It also noted that, since the 2010 elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) performance using the automated system has consistently improved.

“The latest available data on the 2019 mid-term elections to the data compared with the 2016, 2013, and 2010 elections shows improving Comelec performance over time,” Torneo and Ruiz said in the study.

“The preparations and improvements adopted by Comelec in the system, the technology, the contingency measures, and the services appear to be paying off. If the scorecard and the seven indicators is the sole basis, we can objectively say that the 2019 mid-term elections may be the best AES election yet,” they said.

Torneo and Ruiz said that for the 2019 mid-term elections, Comelec provided at least four means for the public to gain a good understanding of how the system works which include mock elections, source-code review, public ballot printing system, and the results website.

The authors also cited a Pulse Asia survey showing that 89 percent of Filipinos prefer the automated system, a comparable yet increasing trend since the first automated elections in 2010.

In terms of voter satisfaction for the 2019 mid-term elections, 83 percent of Filipinos were satisfied with the conduct of the elections, which was relatively consistent with other elections under the AES.

It said people’s opinion surveys also showed that 84 percent believed that the election results in 2019 were credible, a significant jump from 74 percent in 2016.

“Another indicator is the consistently low number of electoral protests of the automated elections compared to previous elections that used manual counting. There were no electoral protests filed for national positions, and around 30 cases filed for local positions,” the study said.

“Contrary to media hype, the data and reports from PPCRV (Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting) and the post-election evaluation of Comelec (Commission on Election) show that the election results were accurate. This was verified through random manual audit, independent parallel count, and result transmission rate,” the study said.

The authors said the AES guaranteed the transparency and credibility of the election through the digital transmission of results that ensure that ordinary citizens can monitor the canvassing of the votes that would determine the winners of important government seats.

“People’s perceptions expressed increasing preference since the first automated elections,” they said. “In turn, the administration gained even more political capital as shown by high approval and trust rating in recent national survey.”

They said accuracy is also necessary for people to trust the election.
“Stakeholders need to be assured that their votes are counted and that the ballots are secure. The election technology used in the AES assures this accuracy through various measures. The digital scanning of the ballot, receipt printing, and other security measures secure the votes. Apart from these, various measures are also in place to check the accuracy of the results,” the study said.

The 2019 mid-term elections was the fourth automated election held in the country since technology provider Smartmatic won the bidding held by Comelec following the enactment of Republic Act No. 8436 or the Automated Election System Law in 2007.

In 2010, the Philippines became the first country in Asia to hold a nationwide automated elections.