Keep ballots clean, voters advised

CEBU CITY -- Overshading and paper jams were among the problems encountered by voters who tried the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) demo center in a mall during the weekend.

To help avoid paper jams, voters must make sure the timing mark – those black markings on the sides of the official ballots -- should not have any writing or rips on them.

Cebu City South District Election Assistant Bernard de los Reyes said that in the past three days when the Commission on Elections (Comelec) conducted the voter education and PCOS demo in the SM City Cebu, paper jams were the most common problem voters encountered.

Until April 30, Comelec is testing its machines and systems for the May 13 elections, when some 77,800 clustered precincts will be activated nationwide.

It will only be the second time the country will use an automated system, hence the need for demos to help voters familiarize themselves with the PCOS.

Danao City Election Officer Dominic Ian Marigomen showed volunteers how to operate the PCOS machine when the demo started last Friday.

Last Saturday, about 50 voters tried using the machine, taking a break from their mall errands.

Voters are advised to handle their ballot carefully and prevent it from getting ink smudges.

Demo team member Doreen Marigomen said among the reasons behind the paper jams is improper positioning of the ballot when it is fed into the optical scanning machine.

Rejected ballots -- usually those with torn edges or unnecessary markings -- will not be replaced, but only noted by the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) and turned over to the Comelec.

Marigomen said the BEI will also assist those who have poor eyesight. The Comelec is advising senior citizens not to forget their eyeglasses on the day of the election.

To select a candidate, a voter must shade at least 50 percent of the oval before that candidate or party’s name.

If the shading goes beyond the oval, the PCOS machine will still accept the ballot, as long as the shading does not extend to another oval.

Voters who have tried “voting” with the PCOS machine commented that they found it more convenient and easier than the manual election system.

After shading the appropriate names and feeding their ballot into the machine, voters are advised to wait for the PCOS to flash “Congratulations,” which means that their ballot was valid.

Marigomen encouraged registered voters, especially first-timers to visit the PCOS Demo Center, whose services are for free.

It will stay open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. until April 30.

Cebu Provincial Election Supervisor Lionel Marco Castillano, who is currently assigned in Bohol for the May 2013 elections, has previously advised voters to be patient and expect long lines on election day.

In 2010, Comelec formed clusters of five precincts each, because there weren’t enough PCOS machines. This year, the clusters can consolidate up to seven precincts each. (FMG/Sun.Star Cebu)
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