Comelec to rent additional 3,500 vote-counting machines

THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) has decided to lease additional 3,540 units of all-new optical mark reader (OMR) machines amounting to P133.46 million.

In a press briefing, Commissioner Christian Robert Lim said Monday the clustering of more than 93,000 precincts from 92,000 precincts prompted the poll body to proceed with the plan.

“We approved a maximum of seven established precincts with not more than 800 voters. We are expecting the number of voters to be 54.5 million. This translates under that clustering scheme to about more or less 93,647 clustered precincts,” he said.

“The reason for that is basically the machine to voter ratio rose from 1,000 to maximum voters per precinct we brought it down to 800 voters per precinct," Lim added.

The Comelec had said it will be leasing close to 94,000 OMR units from Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) to be used in the May 2016 polls.

“With the current number of units that we have which is 93,977, it will not be sufficient for the number of clustered precincts that we have that’s why we decided to exercise a repeat order,” Lim said.

With the acquisition of new units, the total number of OMRs is now at 97,517.

Lim said that acquiring additional machines would help in shortening the queuing time of voters.

“Considering that there is an 80 percent (voters) turnout so we are expecting about 600 to 640 voters actually turning out per machine. It will also lead to a shorter queuing time,” he said.

Meanwhile, the poll body official said that the acquisition of close to 5,000 new ballot boxes is not included in the P133-million budget.

“We also ordered 4,600 plus ballot boxes that is about P12 million,” Lim said.

An additional 124 OMRs will also be needed for the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) for Filipinos working and living abroad.

“We also decided to increase the number of units for OAV. In 2013, we used 67 machines we are increasing it to 124 units so there will be a lot more jurisdictions in overseas that will have automated voting,” he said.

In 2013, automated voting was implemented in several countries, where there are many Filipinos such as Hong Kong, Singapore and Saudi Arabia (Riyadh, Jeddah, Alcobar).

“We also want to maintain a four-precinct contingency back up in case of a failure of machines during Election Day so we can immediately replace the machines and avoid disruptions in the election process flow,” he said.

Lim also said that they will no longer use some 5,000 old precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for next year's polls.

The Comelec official cited several reasons such as the inter-operability issues with the OMRs, particularly in having a dissimilar Consolidation and Canvassing System (CCS), as well as the inability to generate similar statistics as the OMRs, including the number of rejected ballots, abstentions, fill-up rate, among others.

He also pointed administrative issues found in utilizing several thousands of old PCOS units, such as having to split the Comelec’s technical teams, and the need for additional bidding for the supplies and consumables to be used in refurbishing the units.

“Masyadong cumbersome. These are the reasons why we decided, considering also the shortness of the time as well as the complexity of the project, to rather exercise the repeat order,” Lim said.

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista, however, said the PCOS machines will be used in the 2019 midterm polls after refurbishment and upgrade. (FP/Sunnex)
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