A REDESIGNED color-coded ballot has been approved by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc Tuesday.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, who heads the steering committee on automation, said the new design of the ballot maximizes the space of the ballot face.

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“The design is a more efficient distribution of the names of the candidates and political parties to maximize the space of the ballot face,” said Larrazabal.

Instead of the names of candidates listed vertically, the redesigned ballot will be listing the names on a horizontal manner, both front and back.

“If it is horizontal, then you have the whole of the width of that paper for the particular position and that might contribute in the length of the ballot,” said Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez.

With the new orientation, the ballot's length is now targeted to 25 inches compared to the earlier proposed 29-inch long ballot. The design will still feature color codes depending on the position.

Besides space management purposes, Comelec chairman Jose Melo said the improved design will allow voters to read the names of the candidates in an easier manner.

Although Comelec has already printed 800,000 test ballots that feature the old design, it will still be introducing the new ballot size and orientation through its various voters' education programs.

The commission is also considering modifying instructions under the position name, which used to state: Vote for One (1).

Jimenez said the people might misunderstand the instruction as telling them to vote for the first name that they would see in the list for each position.

“To remove that sort of understanding, we are going to clarify that also,” added Jimenez.

The new design was proposed by the technical personnel of Smartmatic-TIM and Comelec.

A total of 50,723,734 official ballots will be printed on February 7, one for each registered voter.

Voters will be selecting candidates who will occupy the 17,999 elective positions in the coming May national and local elections.

Printing of manual ballots

In a related development, Comelec will start printing on Wednesday the manual ballots of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) under the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) for the May 10 elections.

Comelec Commissioner Armando Velasco, Chairman of the Committee on Absentee Voting (COAV), said that starting Wednesday, they will be printing the ballots for the 589,830 OAV registered voters.

Of the number, 138,113 are postal voters while the 451,717 workers will have to vote personally at the embassy or consulate offices in the countries they are working.

OFWs will be voting one month early or on April 10 until the election day in the Philippines.

Velasco said they are looking to automate the elections for voters in Singapore (31,000) and Hong Kong (91,000), where the most number of Filipino workers are employed.

He noted that the counting of the votes will be simultaneous with the counting of the votes in the country.

“The counting of the OAV votes will be simultaneous with the counting being counting in the country on May 10 at the consulate office of the host country they are in,” Velasco explained, during the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement between the Comelec, the Philippine Postal Corporation (Philpost) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

He added that the shipment of the ballots will start 30 days before the election.

The Comelec official said they are hoping that at least 50 percent of the total registered voters overseas will participate in the national polls.

The MOA signing was for the opening of the OAV Mailing Center at the annex building of the Manila Central Post Office in Manila.

Under the agreement, the ballots of overseas absentee voters shall be sent by the COAV directly to absentee voters and the preparations for the election mailing paraphernalia will be undertaken in Manila.

According to Postmaster General Hector R.R. Villanueva, the country, through Philpost, is linked to the postal system of 190 other member-countries of the Universal Postal Union (UPU) under the United Nations. (Kathrina Alvarez/FP/Sunnex)