ONLY 100 of the 521,000 voters in Cebu City will be able to participate in the mock elections scheduled next week, which is part of the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) efforts to test the reliability of its automated poll system.

The 100 voters will be pre-selected at random.

They will be notified three to four days before the mock election in Barangay Bulacao, an urban village in the south district, and Barangay Mabini, a mountain barangay in the north district, on Feb. 6, a Saturday.

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The two polling places—Bulacao Elementary School and Mabini Elementary School—will get 50 voters each or a total of 100 voters, which represent .019 percent of the city’s total voting population.

Lawyer Marchel Sarno, election officer for the north district, said that while only the 100 voters will use and test the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, candidates in the May 10 elections and other voters are welcome to observe the proceedings.

“According to the guidelines, we are to select at random only 50 voters in the pre-selected precinct to participate in the mock elections. But we will welcome and we encourage other voters and the candidates to observe the process so they can also see how fair and transparent the election is,” Sarno said.

The city’s poll offices will welcome any feedback from the voters and candidates, he said.

Comelec conducted yesterday the field testing and is set to hold the mock elections in eight polling places in the cities of Cebu, Taguig, Baguio and Davao.

As stated in Comelec’s operation plan, the activities are meant “to test and determine the functional capabilities and systems reliability in actual conditions and environment as on election day, the PCOS and the canvassing and consolidation system (CCS), in recording and reading the votes, printing of election returns, electronic transmission of results from polling places to the municipal, city, provincial, national canvassing and consolidation centers.”

Next week, Comelec Cebu City’s voter education activities will go full swing, after the Cebu City Council approved yesterday the P25-million Election Reserve Fund.

Sarno said the availability of the funds will allow them to immediately start their information drive and voter education program in all 80 barangays, which they will conduct down to the sitio level.

Funds

The funds will pay for expenses in connection with the May 10 polls, including office supplies and equipment for the poll precincts, honoraria of all personnel and volunteer teachers who will serve in the elections, and transportation expenses.

Expenses for the voter education campaign will also be charged to the fund.

As of Oct. 31, 2009, the city had a total of 517,798 registered voters. Some 3,217 more registered when the Comelec extended the registration from Dec. 21 to 30.

City councilors will also conduct their separate briefing on the poll automation with the barangay officials, as agreed on by the council yesterday afternoon.

The council approved a resolution charging P160,000 to the City’s Pagcor funds for “a brief educational seminar” on the automated election system for all barangay officials.

The seminar will run from February to April and will be spearheaded by the council’s committee on laws, public accountability and good government.