GMA News Online – Hybrid elections to cost over P24B, says Comelec commissioner

By Dona Magsino | GMA News Online

The proposed hybrid elections—one that combines manual and automated processes—for 2022 will cost at least P24 billion, an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) said on Wednesday.

Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said the system would entail additional costs for leasing of new vote counting machines (VCMs), and additional equipment.

“We cannot use the old VCM if we apply this concept. We have to lease a new machine with a bigger screen and high-resolution of the screen para ma-display [ang boto],” Casquejo said.

“Ngayon kasi we presented our budget to [Department of Budget and Management], we are asking about P24 billion for the all new machines, lease of machines, and then if we add P2.5 billion [for projectors and barcodes] so we get around P26 billion. That is conservative naman po,” he added.

Under the hybrid elections concept that Casquejo presented, the casting of votes would be similar to past automated elections but instead of shading ovals, lotto-type markings will be used.

The filled out ballot will be fed into the VCM which will then print the voter’s receipt with a barcode.

Once the period for voting is closed, the electoral board will set up a monitor and projector at clustered precincts for the public to witness the live verification and counting of votes.

The barcodes in the voter’s receipts will be scanned and the image of the shaded ballot will appear on the screen.

The manual part starts when the electoral board compares the contents of the flashed ballot to those written in the receipt.

After verifying the votes, the electoral board will click the “accept” button in the VCM and the votes will automatically be added in the tally sheet.

Casquejo said his video presentation was his proposal and not necessarily the view of the Commission en banc.

He said the DBM has yet to give a feedback if the P24 billion budget requirement for the hybrid elections can be provided.

The previous automated elections would cost half the price, according to him.

“If we reuse the vote counting machines that we used in 2019, we have to refurbish it, we have to recondition it and repair it, and then we have to enhance the software,” Casquejo said.

Manual elections would even cost cheaper than the hybrid and automated systems, he added.

The cost of holding hybrid elections in 2022 was discussed as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic which bogged down several industries and even reduced government revenues. –NB, GMA News

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