Imee: Hybrid Elections, A Demand For Transparency And Security

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Senator Imee Marcos said elections in the country can never be transparent and secure under the fully automated election system (AES) in use since 2010.

Marcos, who chairs the Senate committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, sponsored on Monday the committee report endorsing a hybrid election system, as proposed by Senate President Vicente Sotto III in Senate Bill No. 7 or the Hybrid Election Act filed in July last year.

The system will entail the manual tallying of votes at the precinct level to ensure that all vote counting is held in full public view and is open to video recording and livestreaming for future fact-checking, Marcos said.

“How do we know that our votes are counted correctly by a fully automated election system? We don’t,” Marcos emphasized.

“Each step of the election process must be open to scrutiny. Since 2010, we have given too much importance to speed and convenience at the expense of transparency,” Marcos added.

The senator deplored the vote counting irregularities that occurred since the AES was used, like the early transmission of votes, foreign access in election servers, installation of an additional device known as a “queuing server” in the middle of the transmission process, script change in the middle of the live transmission of results, and incomplete transmissions of results.

Marcos also said the timeline for filing certificates of candidacy must be moved from mid-October to the 15th of December preceding an election.

“The consequence of this change is limiting the substitution of candidates to only cases of death and disqualification, so as not to disrupt the timeline for timely printing and distribution of ballots to all precincts in the whole archipelago,” Marcos explained.

The printing of ballots will no longer be outsourced but will be confined to the National Printing Office. A bar code, which can be scanned to project a ballot’s digital image and authenticate it, will be a new feature on official ballots, Marcos added.

If a discrepancy of at least 2% occurs between vote tallies done manually and transmitted electronically, an automatic recount for the position under question will be in order.

Although a hybrid election system will add to the workload of teachers and election officers, Marcos stressed the need and value of greater transparency.

“The need for a random manual audit under the AES points to its lack of transparency in reading ballots. Manual vote counting will, at the very outset, ensure transparency and the security of our votes,” Marcos said.