Editorial

Australia rules out electronic voting

COMELEC Chairman Sixto Brillantes has succeeded in brainwashing most people with the idea that going back to manual voting in precincts is something bad. He has even accused as chaos- and confusion-makers experts who urge the junking of the untransparent, unverifiable and flaws-ridden Smartmatic Automated Election System using the PCOS machines.

Unfortunately, many who should be wiser and more prudent, and should give more value to the integrity of the electoral process than to the speed and pseudo-modernization of the unverifiable count of the Smartmatic-PCOS system, are staunch supporters of Chairman Brillantes’ inexplicable attachment to Smartmatic and the PCOS machines.

In the Smartmatic cum PCOS machines Automated Election System the counting of votes is all done by the machine. Ink smudges and ink lines, as well as wrong shading of the ovals, create miscounts. The teachers who constitute each precinct’s or precinct cluster’s Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) do not sign any certificate that they have verified the count and swear to its correctness. The unverified and unreliable count done in the bowels of the PCOS machine is then considered the infallible result. Then the PCOS machine transmits it to the municipal or provincial consolidation and canvassing centers, where dagdag-bawas can still be done.

Mr. Brillantes has convinced most of our leaders of thought and politics, as well as some deluded media pundits, that the flawed and fraud-prone Smartmatic Automated Election System is better than the old system of paper ballots counted in the precincts. In this old manual voting and counting system all the rival parties, the election-watchdogs and media representatives watch the counting and see the results written on a blackboard or a whiteboard. The totals are then verified by the teachers who make up the BEI, witnessed by all, and only the verified results are transmitted to the consolidation and canvassing centers.

Sadly, the leaders who are rallying behind Mr. Brillantes have obviously not studied the problems and actual flaws and glitches of the PCOS machines.

Other countries, the latest of these being Australia, have rejected electronic voting like those of the Smartmatic AES with PCOS machines or using the Internet and other tools.

Yesterday, after a long and hard period of rigorous study, the Australian Parliament’s Joint (House of Representatives and Senate) Standing Committee on Electoral Matters ruled out the proposed move from manual voting and counting to electronic.

The Joint Standing Committee released an interim report that finds there are too many risks associated with the move. Shifting to electronic voting for federal elections, it said, was not feasible before the next election or in the near future without “catastrophically compromising electoral integrity.”

The committee found machine electronic voting to be vulnerable to hacking and measures to mitigate that risk would be costly.

The prospect of Australian voters being able to cast their ballot on the Internet also seems a long way off, with questions being raised about privacy for individual voters, security and potential coercion of voters.

The report by political correspondent Lyndal Curtis quoted Joint Committee chairman Tony Smith as saying: “In future it is likely, given the turbo-advances in technology, that a system of online electronic voting could be delivered with acceptable safety and security….But even when we reach that time, there should be considerations beyond the convenience it would offer.” For, Mr Smith said, “technological convenience must be balanced against electoral integrity.”

We read the committee report. The chapter titled “International Experience” shows that majority of countries continued to rely on paper-based voting and some that have invested in electronic voting have abandoned it.

It shows that in the United States, which had adopted electronic voting of various kinds some years ago, about 70 per cent of voters in the recent mid-term elections cast paper ballots that were counted manually as before.

Other more industrially developed countries than the Philippines, like Ireland and the Netherlands, after spending so much and trying out electronic voting have also abandoned it because of exactly the same risks and actual flaws like what we have seen in the Smartmatic PCOS machines.

Even the United Kingdom sticks mainly to the old fashioned voting and manual counting because electronic systems threaten the integrity of the electoral process.

Alas, our leaders seem to prefer carrying out the desires of Chairman Brillantes and his Comelec to ensuring the transparency of our electoral process and the verifiability of our election results.