THE Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering holding elections in major shopping malls in the 2016 polls as it prepares to hit the ground for a mall-wide satellite voters’ registration and validation starting this weekend.
Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista brought out the idea during the recent signing of a memorandum of agreement with SM Supermalls that will make use of all 52 SM malls all over the country as a full-service voters’ registration satellite hub.
He explained that tapping malls as voting areas would entice more voters to come out and vote because of the convenience that the malls offer, especially to persons with disability (PWD) and the elderly.
While the law designates public schools as voting centers, Bautista said, the Comelec had also used private schools for a fee in the absence of a centrally located public school in a certain area.
“If it can be done in private schools, why can’t we do it in private facilities such as malls?” he added.
“We want to push this partnership [with the malls]further. One of the initiatives by the Comelec is to enhance the voters’ experience to make it make it easier for our voters to register as well as to vote, so we are looking at other partnerships that we could enter into in the future and we would like to thank SM for being helpful and accommodating,” the Comelec chief said.
Comelec Commissioner Luie Guia supported the idea, saying SM has accommodated the poll body during the last elections when it opened five of its malls for the barangay (village) elections in 2013 for the PWD and senior citizens.
He added that the Comelec should expand the coverage to have more inclusive elections next year.
Guia said Comelec field personnel have validated that voter turnout is higher when the poll body’s services are brought to the people rather than having them go to Comelec offices.
Annie Garcia, president of SM Supermalls, welcomed the idea, saying SM has always been committed to help the public because it is part of its social responsibility.
Garcia added that during the three-month voters’ registration in SM malls, special lanes will be created for the PWD and the elderly.
SM was the first mall to conduct satellite voters’ registration in 2012.
During the 2013 elections, it offered some of its malls as special precincts for PWD and senior citizens, also a first in the country’s electoral system.
“This is our commitment to the people to be able to exercise their right to suffrage and this starts with the voters’ registration. SM is a family mall and 3.5 million people go to the mall everyday so it’s not only voters who will see but generations could see that you could see this in a mall setting. This awareness will be a good campaign for Comelec,” Garcia pointed out.
Aside from SM, the Comelec has also forged deals with Ayala and Robinsons in connection with its “No Bio, No Boto” campaing to entice qualified voters to register and submit to biometric validation.
The Comelec chief said there are some 500,000 registered voters in the National Capital Region (NCR or Metro Manila) without or with incomplete biometric data.
Some 4.3 million voters stand to face disenfranchisement in 2016 unless they submit themselves for voter validation, the process of digitally capturing a voter’s photograph, fingerprints and signature to complete his registration record.
According to Bautista, satellite registration in NCR malls will start on Saturday in five SM malls, namely SM North Edsa, SM South Mall, SM Manila and SM Centerpoint.
Registration will also be held at Ayala Malls (Saturday and Sunday) in Glorietta, Market! Market!, UP Town Center and Fairview Terraces.