WITH three weeks before elections, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is still saddled with problems that may delay the voting process and create doubts on the credibility of the outcome of the polls.
The Comelec’s concerns include, among others, the prospect of unstable power supply on election day as a result of the drought experienced in many parts of the country and the loopholes in the amended general instruction (GI) for the members of the board of election inspector (BEI), particularly the issue on replacement ballot.
Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said on Sunday that the Commission has invited officials of the energy department and other concerned agencies to its regular en banc meeting this week for an update on the electricity situation.
Bautista said that the energy department has given assurances that there will be enough power supply during the national and local elections on May 9.
The poll chief said a power outage will not have a big impact on the election process insofar as the vote counting machines (VCMs) are concerned because these are equipped with batteries that can last up to 14 hours.
However, Bautista admitted that power outages during elections would lead to other problems if the voting process will end up late or beyond the 6 a.m to 5 p.m. prescribed time for voting.
“The [voting]machines can run without electricity but the polling centers and canvassing centers need electricity,” he said. “We are more concerned with the security in the precincts and the comforts of the board of election inspectors in the event of a power outage,” he added.
He said remote areas will be the problem because they do not have generator sets.
On the issue of replacement ballot, the Comelec-amended general instruction does stipulate how many times a voter can avail of a replacement ballot.
Bautista explained that a replacement ballot will only be issued if the defect is on the system or the ballot is defective, and not caused by the indiscretion of the voter.
“We have not placed a cap on that because there should not be a lot of defective ballots or else the defect can be on the machine already, or might be deliberate on the part of the voter,” he added.
Bautista also noted that the Supreme Court-mandated issuance of voter’s receipt is also prone to abuse.
“A voter can easily claim that the candidates he or she voted do not match the names that came out in the receipt,” he pointed out, adding that the rule there is for the voter to file a protest and sign the receipt for inclusion on the minutes of meeting of the board of election inspector.