“So, in layman’s terms, meaning to say that candidates were given votes because the digital line crossed his oval which was not shaded by the voter.”
This was the conclusion drawn by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd as Director Denis Villorente of the Advance Science and Technology Institute explained how digital lines appeared on some ballot images. One might ask, “How did the digital lines get on the ballot images?”
Unknown perhaps to many voters, the PCOS has a built-in photocopy function. A photocopier scans a document and generates a copy of the document on paper. The PCOS photocopier, however, scans the ballot and generates an electronic copy of the ballot. Both have scanning bars inside them. While a photocopier’s scanning bar moves to scan the document, the PCOS’s scanning bar is at a fixed position. It is the ballot that moves to be scanned. Designed to scan both sides of the ballot without having to turn the ballot over, it is easy to deduce that the PCOS has a pair of scanning bars that are positioned close enough to each other as to allow a ballot to go through. On the PCOS scanning bar is an assembly of light emitters, mirrors, and light sensitive diodes. Covering the assembly is a clear plastic material generically known as Mylar film to prevent dirt or any foreign material from adhering to the assembly. The Mylar film also prevents the ballot from directly touching the assembly. Rollers are also placed at a fixed position near the scanning bars to pull the ballot from the insertion slot on the PCOS enclosure and push the ballot between the pair of scanning bars. As the PCOS scans the ballot, it generates an electronic copy of the ballot, referred to as a ballot image, which is stored in the CF card.
Now, going back to the digital lines on the ballot images captured by the PCOS, let us review Dir. Villorente’s revelations and its implication.
The Election Automation Law mandates that the root cause of the discrepancy between the PCOS count and the manual count be determined. This task fell on the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC). Dir. Villorente, Chairman of the TEC, reported at the hearing of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People Participation on December 10, 2013, that “we found ink hardened—well, it is foreign material in the Mylar film in the PCOS scanner.” As the ballot goes through the pair of scanning bars and for as long as the foreign material remains on the Mylar film, a digital line that runs parallel to the length of the ballot will be created. Depending on the position of the foreign material on the Mylar film, the digital line generated could cut across a line of ovals. If the digital line is wide enough to fill more than 20% of the oval that it cuts through, it will be interpreted as a valid vote.
Dir. Villorente also reported that of the 234 PCOS covered by the Random Manual Audit (RMA), the RMA Committee referred eleven PCOS with discrepancies greater than nine between the PCOS count and manual count to the TEC for root cause determination. All eleven were found to have generated digital lines. Seven of these had lines running through ovals.
The implication? Dir. Villorente reported: “But if it (the digital line) passed through an unshaded oval, it could result to an over vote which means lahat po yon—well, it is an over vote or it could add vote to that candidate.”
Eleven of 234 PCOS is 4.7 percent. Extrapolating, 4.7 percent of close to 78,000 PCOS deployed in the 2013 elections translates to about 3,666 PCOS that could have generated digital lines on ballot images. If the average turn out per PCOS was 600 voters, a total of 2,199,600 ballots could have potentially been affected! Even if only seven of the eleven PCOS examined were found to have digital lines cutting through the ovals, again by extrapolation, a total of 1,399,745 ballots could have been affected. Dir. Villorente also reported that not all the ballots in the PCOS examined had digital lines on them but he didn’t give a number. So, let’s assume that only 25 percent of the ballots that went through the PCOS that generated digital lines had digital lines that crossed the ovals. That translates to 349,937 ballots!
With the Commission on Elections (Comelec) considering the re-use of the PCOS for the 2016 election, it would be prudent to have all PCOS machines undergo thorough cleaning and maintenance, quality check, and rigorous testing.
Let’s face IT! The 2013 election results could have been altered by PCOS generated digital lines on ballot images. The Comelec must not allow this to happen again.