The Manila Times – Reengineering the automated election system

By Lito Averia | The Manila Times

THE process design of the automated election system follows the dictates of Batas Pambansa Bilang 881, otherwise known as the “Omnibus Election Code.”

The major components of the election system include: a) the voting period; b) vote counting period during which the election return is prepared and finalized; c) the delivery of the election returns to the board of canvassers in the city or municipality to which the each voting precinct or polling place belongs; and d) the canvassing and consolidation of election results.

The canvassing and consolidation, as provided by the relevant provisions of the Omnibus Election Code, is done in a ladderized manner, to wit:

“(a) Election returns from the voting precincts are first received by the board of canvassers at the city or municipality and the results of the count are tabulated into what is referred to as statement of votes then summarized into what is referred to as the city or municipality certificate of canvass; the canvass of the results for the city or municipal elective officials are used to proclaim the city or municipal officials while the consolidated results of provincial and national elective posts are delivered to the provincial board of canvassers;

“(b) The provincial board of canvassers then tabulates the consolidated election results from the cities and municipalities within the respective jurisdictions of the provinces into the provincial statement of votes then summarized into the provincial certificate of canvass for both the provincial and national elective posts followed by the announcement and proclamation of the winners of provincial elective contests while the consolidated results of the national elective posts are delivered to (1) the Congress for the canvassing and consolidation of election results for the Presidential and Vice Presidential contests and (2) the Commission on Elections (Comelec) for the canvassing and consolidation of election results for the Senatorial contests and, later, the Party-List contest.

“(c) The Congress and the Comelec each tabulates the election results received for the national posts and, when completed, proclaim the winners of the national elective posts.”

Of course, there are similar canvassing and consolidation processes for the aggregation of election results for the members of the House of Representatives at either the provincial-legislative-district or the city-legislative-district.

Why ladderized? Today, there are way over 200,000 established voting precincts nationwide. Imagine if Congress or Comelec were to receive election returns from thousands of voting precincts. It would have taken for Congress and Comelec a lot of time to canvass and consolidate the election results from thousands of voting precincts. It was quicker for the city or municipality to consolidate the election returns from a relatively smaller number of voting precincts and deliver the consolidated results to the provincial board of canvassers. The provincial boards of canvassers handled only a small number of election results consolidated by cities and municipalities within the provinces’ respective jurisdictions. Then Congress and Comelec only had to consolidate election results from provinces, a few independent cities and overseas posts.

With the automated election system and the clustering of established voting precincts, a great majority of election returns from clustered voting precincts were electronically transmitted to respective cities’ or municipalities’ canvassing and consolidation servers, transparency server and Comelec’s central server within a short period of time. For instance, despite the seven-hour data outage in the transparency server experienced during the 2019 elections, election returns from 91 percent of the clustered voting precincts were electronically received within the same period.

The canvassing and consolidation of election results at the national level switched back to the analogue manner of canvassing and consolidation. The due execution and authenticity of each certificate of canvass had been done manually. For instance, it took the Comelec about a week to proclaim the winners of the senatorial contest but much longer for the party-list contest. Congress, on the other hand, went through the snail-paced canvassing and consolidation of the election results based on certificates of canvass from provinces, independent cities and overseas posts.

When Republic Act (RA) 8436, as amended by RA 9369, was put together, it simply followed the ladderized manner of canvassing and consolidation of election results as provided by the Omnibus Election Code. But, it was totally unnecessary.

With the canvassing and consolidation election results reengineered, the election returns can be transmitted to a central server which will then disaggregate each election return into the various contests and consolidate the election results for each elective post. The central server can then transmit the consolidated election results per elective post to the respective cities and municipalities, city-legislative district, provincial-legislative-district, provinces, and to Congress and the Comelec. The final results of the elections at the local or national levels may be verified and audited down to each component election return. The verification can be done independently if each election return bore the personal digital signature of each member of the board of election inspectors or the electoral board at the voting precinct.

Of course, the citizens’ arms, political parties and media should still be enabled to electronically received copies of the digitally signed election returns from each voting precinct.

Shouldn’t our legislators consider reengineering the canvassing and consolidation of election results together with the reengineering of the voting and counting of votes being considered in the draft Hybrid Election System bills filed in both chambers?

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