Comelec drops touch screen voting

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THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) will no longer purchase precinct-based direct recording electronic (DRE) machines amid questions on the reliability of the touch screen technology.

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Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez on Tuesday said the Comelec en banc had shelved the bidding of the project, which should have been part of the poll body’s P2.503 billion voting machines procurement program.

Jimenez explained that the project has not been totally scrapped but the commission is “going a little slower on it than we used to.”

The Comelec en banc recently came out with a resolution suspending the progress of the second round of bidding for the DRE and the pilot testing of the technology.

The poll body’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) declared a failure of bidding because only one bidder, Scytl Secured Electroonic Voting, purchased the bidding documents for the DRE machines.

Among those who formally registered their concern about the use of the DRE is the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee (JCOC), headed by Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd.

Jimenez admitted that the touch screen technology is not reliable, citing the experience of other countries that used the DRE technology. In some instances, when a voter touched the screen to vote for a certain candidate, the vote is credited to another candidate.

The same technology, he added, was tested during the 2008 elections in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) but the voters had a hard time using the touch screen feature of the DRE, resulting in long queues.

According to Jimenez, it took a minimum of 15 minutes for a voter to finish compared to only 10 seconds for the controversial precinct count optical machines or PCOS.

“You have to understand we are on automated election, so there is a level of comfort that the pubic needs. If you add the DRE, the comfort of level should be much higher. So there are lots of concerns,” he said.

“All of these have already been looked at, but we want to look at it again in light of the strong opposition to the use of the DRE,” Jimenez added.

The DRE has an approved budget contract of P31.272 million for 410 units, including technical support.

These units were supposed to be pilot tested in Pateros in next year’s polls.

The Comelec is set to acquire 23,000 units of precinct-based optical mark reader machines to be used in the elections next year. The commission had started testing the machines to be supplied by Smartmatic TIM Corp.

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