Automation rush: Patchwork for a broken election system

Hopefully learning from its foiled efforts three years ago, the COMELEC now looks to 2010 as the year when the nation will finally have an automated polling system, at least a subsystem of it. (There are three phases for the automation: voter registration, voting and counting, and transmission and canvassing of votes. William Torres of Mozcom has advocated the automation of the last phase for 2010 before the previous phases be tackled in time for 2013. But I have a problem here: Automate transmission and canvassing of votes that proceeded from broken subsystems? Would that just be condoning the corrupt practices in the previous phases?)

Today, with the COMELEC already trying to implement the amended Electoral Modernization Act (RA 9369), the issue hounding the political landscape is whether polls automation will solve the electoral problem or not. Progressives have come out with their view that automating elections are no guarantee to generate trust and peaceful process amidst the broken manual system. I agree.

First and foremost, trust from stakeholders is a very crucial factor for successfully introducing and fleshing out a novel idea that claims far-reaching results and impact. Unless citizens have full confidence with their government in effecting changes, the move to automate the polls will lead to naught. (Obet Verzola, Secretary General of Halalang Marangal, an election watchdog, claims that automation [as it is being done] can  make things worse.) I cannot expect COMELEC to succeed this time with the current leadership holding on to power. Whether I refer to Ab or Ar, you guess.

Automation mainly refers to technology, which has been used to perpetuate societal divide, despite gradual efforts to use it as an empowering tool for the disadvantaged sectors. But I don’t mean I’m against it. I’m all for it, but not for the rushed one. My number one criterion for such is readiness on the part of both the government and the civil society to engage in the process. Yes, I do weigh automation as a process, more than its outputs. If process clicks, output clicks automatically and augurs well for lasting changes. Basically, the questions are: Is the government really ready for it? Are the voters really ready for it? More than the issue of capacity, those questions pertain to the former’s ascendancy, and the latter’s education.

Verzola is proposing a hybrid system, where only parts of the system can be automated. He insists that the counting of votes at the precinct level remain manual. I agree, although I see some areas that need improvement in that regard, like the procedure of counting the votes.

If automation is rushed once again, we would have two scenarios: 1. The Supreme Court will once more intervene and default the executive branch. 2. Automation is successful in terms of perpetuating elite interests, so that majority of those in power remain the voice of the rich.

(Read my previous post on why I am for automation and when it will succeed.)

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3 comments

  1. Hi Dong,

    My article you cite is posted at halal.interdoc.org. It says that automation CAN (not WILL) make things worse.

    Regards,

    Obet

  2. As long as the automation system will be based on open source technologies, I’m for it. Something like an automated election system should answer the call for public transparency.

    If we just have a government that is mostly made up of technically inclined folks, maybe automation will go somewhere.

    I think people are ready. For one, they are pretty much hate the current election setup, and they clamor for a change.

    I just hope with the automation push, the Comelec will also be “cleansed” from top to bottom.

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