Comelec decides against testing electronic voting system in 2016

MANILA: The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will no longer push through with a plan to pilot-test the touch screen technology during the 2016 elections.

In a memorandum, the Comelec said it would not be pilot-testing the direct recording electronic (DRE) voting system, as this would just present an “unnecessary hurdle” in the preparations for the May 2016 presidential polls.

“The value of pilot-testing the DRE technology and its potential to further revolutionize Philippine elections are undeniable. However, present circumstances sway the undersigned that pilot-testing the use of DRE voting machines in Pateros is an unnecessary hurdle to the already daunting task of conducting the 2016 polls,” said the memorandum signed by acting Comelec Chair Christian Robert Lim.

With the May 2016 elections involving the presidency, the Comelec said “pilot-testing any innovation with the current election system… might not be the most prudent course of action.”

In August 2014, the Comelec Advisory Council (CAC) recommended to the Comelec the use of the DRE as a secondary technology and to pilot-test it in an area with at least one voting center covering a minimum of 20,000 voters.

Earlier this month, the Comelec said it was suspending the public bidding for the lease of DRE machines while it was reevaluating its plan to conduct a dry run of the voting technology.

The poll body cited the high cost of the DRE system which would necessitate the acquisition of a large number of machines as each machine can accommodate only 100 voters.

“The machine-voter ratio necessitates the acquisition of a considerable number of machines and consequently translates to large cost implications,” it said.

It said the agency’s present budget for the automation of the 2016 polls excludes the procurement of DRE machines, source code review, and other related costs.

Another reason cited for abandoning the plan to pilot-test the new technology was the potential problems arising from the voters’ and the Board of Election Inspectors’ unfamiliarity with the DRE voting system.

The Comelec also cited the apparent apprehension expressed by several members of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee with the automated election system.

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