Sunday, May 9, 2010

Automated elections `chaotic but systematic' at Marikina Heights

Automated elections `chaotic but systematic' at Marikina Heights*
by Danilo Arao

The smaller number of precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines resulted in the clustering of different precincts in many areas of the Philippines.

Marikina Heights, which is part of the second district of Marikina City, proved to be no different. From our experience a few hours ago, the grouping of various precincts in just one room has resulted in longer lines for those who want to vote.

When the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said that it expects an "85 percent voter turnout of 50.7 million registered voters" nationwide, it may not have taken into account the possible widespread disenfranchisement of registered voters due to the long lines and sweltering heat inside many classrooms of public schools that are now serving as voting precincts. The following photographs taken at Kapitan Moy Elementary School in Marikina Heights from 7.30am to 9am show the chaos brought about by longer lines and unbearable heat inside the school.


My wife and I were initially all smiles when we entered the elementary school to vote.
We were, after all, excited to take part in the first automated elections in the country.


Our excitement, however, was short-lived as we were greeted in this flood-prone area by a sea of humanity.


The situation was the same in our clustered precinct which we eventually found on the first floor of the building.
My wife and I initially went upstairs only to realize that the map at the entrance of the public school was inaccurate.


Nothing could be more frustrating than arriving at 7.30am
only to realize that you're 129th to vote.
At the time that my wife (130th) and I received our numbers,
only the 15th to 20th were being called upon
to enter the clustered precinct.
Yes, it's going to be a long wait for us...


...and we can't blame others if they can only scratch their head in frustration and disbelief.


Those who were 200th and above opted to go outside to "cool off" from the unbearable heat.
There were as many people outside the elementary school.


To be fair to the patient and hardworking Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs),
they did their best to facilitate a systematic and quick voting process.
They said that their main problem was the failure of some voters
to properly identify their precinct numbers.


My wife and I (center, wearing white shirt) decided to kill time by helping out registered voters
who couldn't find their names in the list of voters.


Eventually, we got tired due to the heat and the sheer number of people entering the school which appeared to increase by the minute.


At around 9am (or after one-and-a-half hours of waiting outside),
my wife and I were finally allowedto enter our clustered precinct to cast our vote!


An election inspector allowed me to take pictures of the PCOS machine as it processed my official ballot.


Even if I was129th in line, I was the 119th to cast my vote in our clustered precinct in Marikina Heights.


Now this is a "dirty finger" worth displaying.

If our experience at Marikina Heights were reflective of what others had gone through this morning, it is hoped that other Filipinos who are yet to vote will exercise enough patience and diligence to endure the sweltering heat and the long lines. It could, after all, get worse in the afternoon.

And even if the voting officially closes at 6pm today the vigilance does not end as there is still the canvassing of votes and proclamation of winners that must be guarded.