Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the need for social distancing measures, the voting period for next year’s national and local polls will likely be extended by as much as three hours, the Commission on Elections said Monday.
“The direction we are going is to hold it in a day with extended voting hours. That is almost sure,” said Comelec Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr.
“Eight hours won’t cut it. It could run 10 or even 12 hours, depending also on the capacity of the teachers. Most probably, there will be additional two or three hours,” added.
Going beyond one day, however, is unlikely since election laws only provide for a one day period.
“We might need Congress for that [to amend the law.] If we extend by more than a day, and someone goes to the Supreme Court to question the outcome of the elections, it will be a disaster,” he said.
Kho said the poll body is planning to buy 10,000 more Vote Counting Machines for the 2022 elections.
“We have 97,000 VCMs, but of course, some of them need to be repaired, refurbished and we don’t expect them to be all okay. So we are looking at buying 10,000 more VCMs to comply with the 800 per precinct ratio,” he said.
Based on Comelec records, there are at least 61 million registered voters for next year’s electoral exercise.
From 1,000 votes per precinct in 2019 polls, the poll body is looking to bring it down to the 2016 level of 800 voters per precinct to be able to observe social distancing.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 sectoral groups have banded together to call on the government to COVID-proof the national polls next year.
“Lessons from the recently-concluded Palawan plebiscite and from several countries that recently held their elections showed us that it is possible to hold democratic processes successfully amidst the pandemic,” the groups said in a unity statement issued Monday.
“Stricter measures should be implemented from the start of the election period to voting day. The Philippines can learn from the best practices of countries that successfully held their elections amidst the pandemic such as Indonesia, Singapore, and the United States.”