BALLOTS that will be used in next week’s mock elections will not bear the names of candidates in the May 10 polls to avoid trending, a Cebu City poll official said.

Lawyer Marchel Sarno, election officer for the north district, said that fictional names will be printed on the ballots that will be used in the mock polls so that the results will not influence the choices of the voters.

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He said yesterday that the purpose of the mock elections is to test the reliability of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines, and not to find out which candidates are likely to win in the polls.

Meanwhile, four ballots were rejected by a PCOS machine and three poll machines encountered problems in transmission during the second field test, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) confirmed.

The Comelec conducted a second field test in four precincts located in Taguig and Pateros to allow interested politicians and reporters to observe the test.

These precincts were Taguig Elementary School and Maharlika Elementary School in Taguig, and Pateros Elementary School and Aguho Elementary School in Pateros.

In Aguho Elementary School, a PCOS machine failed to read four test ballots.

National Capital Region (NCR) Director Michael Juneda said that the ballots might be a little crumpled because these were the same ballots used in the first field test conducted on Jan. 27.

“The Technical Working Group is discussing this matter. Again, the purpose is to test the system and there are some things that we observed today that will help us in the conduct of elections in May,” said Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal.

The PCOS machine that failed to read the ballots was brought to the Comelec office to determine the problem.

Juneda, meanwhile, reminded voters to handle their ballots carefully.

“We are stressing that always in our voters’ information campaign. Avoid crumpling it, making it wet or putting smudges because we are only giving the voters one chance to vote,” said Juneda.

Another difficulty encountered in Aguho Elementary School was the transmission of data, which took more than two hours because of problems in network coverage.

“There were three SIM (subscriber identity module) cards that were used and after the three SIM cards were used and it did not transmit, we used the BGAN (broadband global area network),” said Larrazabal.

Meanwhile, the transmission of data in three other schools was “successful” as the data were sent in less than one hour to the servers.

“We encountered problems in terms of signal but eventually we were able to transmit, so everything was sent successfully and accurately to the canvassing centers,” said Comelec spokesman James Jimenez.

The field test kicked off at 8 a.m. and the data were transmitted between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.

But Larrazabal said the second field test was again “successful”.

“One of the most important things about field testing is that you have repeatablility of results, that your success is not a fluke,” added Jimenez.

Following the field tests, a mock election is scheduled to check possible problems.

The mock election will be held in two polling precincts in the cities of Cebu, Taguig, Baguio and Davao on Feb. 6, a Saturday.

“We will not use the names of the actual candidates in the May 10 elections in the ballots for the mock elections, otherwise, there is a risk of creating a trend on the results of the elections. Besides, the official ballots will not be ready yet by next week,” Sarno said.

Random

By Monday, the city’s poll offices will select at random the 50 voters that will participate in the mock elections in each of the two precincts in Barangay Bulacao in the south district, and Barangay Mabini in the north district.

Three to four days before the mock polls, the selected participants will be notified of their involvement in the mock elections.

Sarno said that the city’s election officers will serve as members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) during the mock polls, which will be facilitated and supervised by Smartmatic-TIM representatives.

As stated in Comelec’s operation plan, the mock polls are meant “to test and determine the functional capabilities and systems reliability in an actual condition and environment as on election day, the PCOS and the canvassing and consolidation system, 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.”

The eight polling places across the country will get one PCOS machine each for the activity. (LCR/(Sunnex)