By Maricel Cruz | Manila Standard
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is planning to lower the number of people in polling places in the national elections in 2022.
At a public hearing conducted by the House Committee on People's Participation forum on the 2022 elections, Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman James Jimenez said the poll body is considering having only five individuals in one classroom that is being used as a voting venue.
"In previous elections, the standard has always been that in any polling place, there should be room for at least ten people voting at the same time. This is understandable because you want people to be voting, filling out the ballots, while someone is at the machine, slipping their ballot at the vote counting machine," Jimenez said.
"But now, with COVID, we are looking to lower the number of people who will be inside the polling place. Where there used to be ten voters at the same time in the classroom, we are exploring a range of possibilities now and the most extreme of these possibilities is that that number will be brought down to five people," he added.
Jimenez said the five people would include three members of the electoral board, one watcher of the political party, and one voter.
He was quick to say however that the proposal is still being studied.
"One voter at a time… this is the most extreme option being discussed. Obviously there will be a lot of room to amend this position. But in general the idea will be to limit the people inside the polling precinct," he said
This developed as Speaker Lord Allan Velasco on Tuesday called on concerned government agencies to ensure that Filipinos are able to vote safely and freely in the May 2022 national elections despite the continuing threat of COVID-19.
In the same virtual forum hosted by the House Committee on People’s Participation, chaired by Rep. Florida Robes, Velasco underscored the need to balance the public need for free and democratic elections with the need to keep everyone safe and healthy during the health crisis. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“The pandemic ground the world to an almost complete halt, but our democratic processes must endure. The greatest of these democratic processes, of course, is suffrage,” Velasco said.
“Our countrymen should be allowed to choose their leaders in an open and free election,” Velasco added.
Velasco said the recently concluded Palawan plebiscite served as a testing ground for the 2022 elections, with the implementation of health safety measures such as temperature checks, social distancing, and personal protective equipment or PPE for election frontliners.
The House leader believed the pandemic will most likely transform the traditional electoral system, just like what it did to the country’s educational system.
He said the person-to-person campaigns and public hall debates would most likely move to the online sphere.
“We must ensure, therefore, that the voice of those who have less in life, those who do not have easy access to internet-ready devices shall still be heard by the candidates,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Commission on Elections called on deactivated voters once again to re-activate their registration to participate in next year's national and local elections.
Jimenez said their efforts to encourage would-be voters also include those who have been delisted from the voters' list for failure to participate in two consecutive polls in the country.
“When we put out a call for registration, that includes an invitation to those deactivated by reason of failure to vote in the past 2 elections,” he said.
“But just to manage expectations, not all of the seven million are going to reactivate. The reason for that is because some of them moved to a different place, some moved overseas, some no longer interested in voting,” Jimenez added.