By Lito Averia | The Manila Times
THE counting of votes followed the close of voting on election day. Prior to the automation of the elections, the counting and recording of votes were done in the following manner:
The reading of the ballots, the recording of votes into the tally board and tally sheet, and the recording of the vote count into the ER were all done under the watchful eyes of observers.
With the automation of the national and local elections, the above-described activities of the BEI were taken over by the vote counting machines (VCM). The following is what happens inside the VCM:
Unlike in the manual counting of votes, the assessment of the marks on the ballot, the recording of votes into a vote record, and the counting of votes and recording of the vote count into the ER are not observable as these are done inside the machine. Transparency has been totally lost undermining the overall credibility of the election results.
The VVPAT allows the voter to check if the choices he made on the ballot are properly recorded by the VCM. However, in case of a discrepancy, the voter has no recourse but to cite the discrepancy to the BEI who takes note of the report. The voter can no longer retrieve his ballot from the ballot box nor is he issued a replacement ballot.
Neither is there any assurance that the votes counted are properly recorded by the VCM into the ER.
In the First Media Conference for the 2022 National and Local Elections (NLE) held by the Commission on Elections on May 14, 2021, Commissioner Marlon S. Casquejo announced additional transparency measures: 1) for the first time, the Comelec will include the digital signatures of the Electoral Board, formerly the BEI, in the transmission of results; and 2) the transmission of the VVPATs with the corresponding ER from each VCM to the transparency server and canvassing servers.
Affixing the digital signatures of the members of the Electoral Board to the ER ensures that it is protected from any tampering and can be verified as having come from a legitimate source. The manner of verification is yet unknown.
Transmitting all the VVPATs to the transparency server will allow various groups connected to the transparency server to perform an electronic recount of the votes based on the VVPAT and the result of the recount may be compared with the vote counts reflected in the ER.
The Comelec can take a further step like encoding the ER data into a QR (Quick Response) code and printing it on the ER. Once the ER is posted on the door of the corresponding voting precinct, interested parties may take a picture of the QR code which will allow the interested parties, even at the local level, to perform their own vote tally. An ER may have a QR code each for the national contests, party list and local contests.
The Comelec may also encode VVPAT data into a QR code and print it on the VVPAT. This is seen to enhance the process of conducting the random manual Audit.
Transparency measures are not the same as transparency per se but may result in higher credibility of the elections results.
Still, the question remains: Is there a way of making the VCM count and generation of the ER observable and transparent?