• Electronic voting machines ditched in US, Germany and Holland

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    This scene took place on Tuesday, November 4. Why, oh why, my wife scolds me, are you following so intently the US midterm elections when you’re not eligible to vote there? And why are you favoring those loud people on Fox News over those dull people on CNN and BBC?

    I will tell you why, I say earnestly in reply. Because the results and developments in this balloting could offer big lessons for politics and policy here in our country. Because the conservatives on Fox are more convincing than the liberals on CNN. And because the prognosis of most analysts on the Internet is that Barack Obama will get the beating of his political life.

    Sure enough, before I could say Aha, the US midterms not only showed a shellacking of Obama and the Democratic Party, it produced two unexpected developments that could serve as grist for hope and change here in the Philippines.

    These salutary developments are:

    First, Americans are growing weary of electronic voting machines, and are losing faith that electronic voting is the right technology for American democracy.

    According to the Hill website, a good number of US states abandoned electronic voting machines, ensuring that most voters cast their ballots by hand on Election Day.

    Second, Political dynasties suffered major setbacks in the elections. The results were so bad for dynastic politicians, some pundits said that the days of the political dynasty may be setting in America.

    Electronic voting machines ditched
    Because of its possible relevance to the ongoing dispute and debate on Smartmatic and its PCOS machines here at home, I reproduce the Hill’s report at length below:

    “With many electronic voting machines more than a decade old, and states lacking the funding to repair or replace them, election officials opted to return to the pencil-and-paper voting that the new technology was supposed to replace.

    “Nearly 70 percent of voters cast ballots by hand on Tuesday (November 4), according to Pamela Smith, president of election watchdog Verified Voting.

    “ ‘Paper, even though it sounds kind of old school, it actually has properties that serve the elections really well,’ Smith said.

    “It’s an outcome few would have predicted after the 2000 election, when the battle over ‘hanging chads’ in the Florida recount spurred a massive, $3 billion federal investment in electronic voting machines.

    “Since then, states have failed to maintain the machines, partly due to budget shortfalls.

    “ ‘There is simply no money to replace them,’ said Michael Shamos, a computer scientist at Carnegie Mellon University who has examined computerized voting systems in six states.

    “The lack of spending on the machines is a major problem because the electronic equipment wears out quickly. Smith recalled sitting in a meeting with Missouri election officials in 2012 where they complained 25 percent of their equipment had malfunctioned in preelection testing.

    “ ‘You’re dealing with voting machines that are more than a decade old,’ Smith said.

    “One group from Princeton needed only seven minutes and simple hacking tools to install a computer program on a voting machine that took votes for one candidate and gave them to another.

    “More whimsically, two researchers showed they could install Pac-Man onto a touch-screen voting machine, leaving no detectable traces of their presence.

    “An electronic machine in North Carolina lost roughly 4,500 votes in a 2004 statewide race after it simply stopped recording votes. The race was ultimately decided by fewer than 2,000 votes.

    “ ‘Now what do you do?’ Smith asked. ‘You can’t really do a recount. There’s nothing to count.’

    “Within a year, the state passed a law requiring a paper back-up.

    “ ‘Paper trails are simply ‘more resilient,’ Smith said.”

    When combined with Germany’s and Holland’s abandonment of electronic voting, this emerging trend in the US should prompt us here in Manila to review the viability of electronic voting machines, particularly the PCOS machines that our Commission on Elections has fallen in love with.

    The decision should not be left in the hands of Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr, who is due for retirement next year.

    Setbacks for US political dynasties
    The Hill also reported on November 11 the surprising defeat of various political dynasties in the midterm elections.

    I quote freely from the Hill’s report because of the lessons it bears for our own ardent desire to change the dynastic political landscape in our country:

    “Lost among the scattered debris of the Democratic midterm disaster is another phenomenon: the widespread rejection of dynastic politicians. Three of the five defeated Democratic senators who ran for reelection belong to families whose famous last names had paved their way for a cakewalk entry into high political office….

    “Perhaps the biggest problem that the defeated dynasties carried into their reelection campaigns is that they were initially propelled into office almost solely by their name.

    “As we learn who sons or daughters of famous names are, we also learn what they are not, and the knowledge often strips them of their potential appeal.”

    The chief lesson for Filipinos to learn from this salutary development in the US is that the dynasties in our country are not ordained by heaven. They can be defeated. Political reform is possible, when carried forward by determined citizen reformers, who want to give life to the mandate of the Constitution banning political dynasties.

    Dynasty, like crime, should not pay. And the PCOS machines should be cast aside like the Betamax and other obsolete gadgets.

    yenmakabenta@yahoo.com

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    17 Comments

    1. The issue here is not automation per se. Data input is still manual, but the processing is automated. Now which machine to use is the question. Western countries have not abandoned automation. Voters still input their selection on physical ballots, scanned and processed at the precinct level using computers. Using touch screen as in the last US election is a matter of utility, just like doing banking using touch screen. It’s a matter of what people are used to or their preference.

      Anyone who wants to bring back manual processing of ballots is just looking for trouble. The probability of human errors, manipulation of election results on blackboards, or using paper and pencil is far higher than in automated processing. The fact results take forever can encourage wanna be cheaters to doctor results.

      Automation (PCOS or other electoral machine) is just a tool. So don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

    2. My whole family lives in Switzerland and we are citizens of this country for years (although my wife and I still keep valid Philippine passports).

      We perform a lot of voting and I think we have done at least 3 this year with a new one coming at the end of this month. They are mostly to allow us decide which laws to pass Yes, the people decide for the people. We agree or disagree on decided issues. Lawmakers and political leaders are only representatives of the people. The issues submitted for votation are those proposed by the people through their representatives. Elections are another matter. The political system and practices have a lot to teach the Filipinos, but only if Filipinos want to learn them although the base of the government are similar. People here are first and foremost citizens of the commune or village (barangay in Pinas) before that of the canton (equivalent of state in the US or province in Spain or Philippines) and before considering themselves citizens of the country.

      Anyway, some parts of Switzerland, its cantons and the canton’s cities, towns and villages are able to conduct internet voting, hence NOT ALL. How come? A rich country like Switzerland can NOT afford to provide convenient electronic voting to all areas? Oh well, NO, it is not for all. Each village and each canton will shoulder their own expenses whether the votation and election are local and/or federal. The same reason as mentioned by Mr. Macabenta, electronic voting advantages are inferior to what it costs and their potential problems.

      By the way, there is still a canton called Appenzel (known for a type of cheese) where people can vote by RAISING THEIR HANDS in the village plaza. The system is called LANDSGEMEINDE, translated in English as “cantonal assembly”, and is obviously, one of the oldest forms of direct democracy.

      Swiss systems can be too old and/or up-to-date, but that is not the point. It is the people’s thinking and ways of life…

    3. With a government run in a marionette-style, no free and transparent elections can ever take place. I can attest to this truth because I am Namfrel’s bonafide member since 1955, when JoeCon came to Zamboanga City to recruit for volunteers. Our only hope is to get rid of this present government, for differently we, as a sovereign people, would continue to wander aimlessly in life as did the Israelites in the desert for 40 years in utter destitution and misery. Meron pa kayang isang tulad ni Andres Bonifaciong magtataas ng tabak; ng isang Gabriela Silang, Gen. Gregorio del Pilar, General Malvar? Balls! Balls! ang kailangan, sabi nga ni Mr. Tiglao. Sino bang meron sa palagay mo, Yen? Si Honasan? Si Trillanes? Si Catapang? Kelan kaya magwawakas ang kahindik-hindik na bangungot na nararanasan natin ngayon, Yen?

    4. If those touch voting machine were found unreliable and could easily be hacked ,and doesn’t provide legit paper trail in case of voting irregularity or problems , why would not Comelec use another method that every vote casts could be traced properly. Found out that US no longer use the touch voting machine instead they used the paper trail method and every ballot casts fed into a counting machine in the precinct.And why choose Venezuela of all countries ???? Why?????

    5. when these hocus-PiCOS machines be eliminated, surely all the hardships the voter will endure (long lines, name nowhere to find, etc.) during election day will bear fruit – the fruit of satisfaction, knowing his vote was properly accounted for. mabuhay po kayo Mr. Yen Makabenta!

    6. Electronic voting in any country is an area that can be controlled by someone with power. There is nothing that can be verified, only the final numbers. There is no paper trail. A small number of people can control an entire national election. Electronic voting in the Philippines is putting the system most likely to yield controlled results in the hands of the elite. So we have the system most likely to be corrupted in the hands of the corrupted. We cannot do it any worse. Let get rid of electronic voting.

    7. Salamat po Mr, Makabebta, sa paglilinaw na dapat IBASURA ANG HOKUS PCOS sa darating na election. Sana ay dito nakatuon ang imbestigasyon ng senado, gaya ng imbestigasyon nila kay Binay, pero hindi kayang gawin ng mga senadores dahil produkto sila ng boto ng pcos at hindi ng tao. Meron pa bang isang senador na totoong may dangal para imbestigahin ang dayaan sa paggamit ng Smartmatic PCOS voting machines sa dalawang election nakaraan?

    8. The automated election system was imposed on us precisely to make election fraud and cheating easier on the of our politicians. Computers can be hacked and reprogrammed. To mitigate election cheating and based on experience, it is submitted that election must be manual and most importantly election results as counted and canvassed at the precint level must be official and final. Transmission of elections results may be done electronically to the municipal and provincial election officers for sole purpose of consolidation only. Municipal and provincial board of canvassers must be abolished, this is where cheating occurs as experience taught us. We had one candidate who got 800 votes in one precint but that 800 became 300 at the municipal board of canvassers. Manual voting is cheaper by the millions. Again I reiterate, elections results at the precint level as counted and canvassed must be OFFICIAL AND FINAL. Thanks.

    9. Sixto and his group of Comelec “commissionERS” will not read The Manila Times. So they will claim they do not know anything about these developments. They will continue to stand-by Smartmatic and Cesar Flores, even will protect him with their lives, for obvious reasons. By the way, Smartmatic must be very happy that Cesar Flores have placed Sixto and his commissionERS inside his pocket. When he came to the Philippines at first, he was merely a marketing or sales manager of Smartmatic. Now, he is Smartmatic President for the Philippines. The Philippines could be the biggest market of this questionable Venezuelan company.

    10. You have said a few things today that i agree with. & now we see why the government was so intent on spending so much money on those machines. If there is a way to cheat the filipino will do it, now you might not like me saying that but you all know its true. Especially in politics in this country, they & we know they come out of politics very very rich, much richer than when they went in. We must ask ourselves why is that, in the 1st world they are usually rich people who go into politics, but they go in not to get richer but to better their country, to serve their country.
      We need that to happen here but how you get it i dont know.
      & let me tell you the idiots on philnews.com were telling all filams to vote dem,ocrat as the republicans will ruin their country. It seems the filipino doesnt want to learn even when they move away from this country.

    11. yang pagbalik sa manual voting ay agree ako. i voted twice using the hocos pcos but after casting my votes and inserting the ballot into the hocos pcos machine, i felt my votes would not be counted as i cast it. parang kulang. it has been proven thru court cases, the latest of which is the paniqui, tarlac mayoralty race, that the hocus pcos machine do not read the ballot correctly.

    12. ERRATA !!!! Accuracy-Alert!!!! NO, not at all. USA did NOT ditch electronic voting in the recently-held mid-term elections.

      I mean, just read again Mr Makabenta’s column and you will notice that he did not name a single city or a single state that went manual.

      • Mr. Makabenta should have called his american-citizen friends in Chicago or Los Angeles…. or in Miami or in Denver…. or New York City or Dallas Texas. They could easily have informed Mr. Makabenta what machines were used by which USA cities.

    13. Thank you very much, Sir Yen Makabenta, for joining the patriotic and pro-democratic and pro-credible, transparent elections in our country that we will lose forever with the Smartmatic Automated Election System using the PCOS machines. I pray your column will convince those who have been made to believe that going back to MANUAL PRECINCT COUNTING like the Americans, the Germans and the Dutch people have is like turning back the clock for our electoral democracy.
      No it is not. Going back to MANUAL COUNTING in the precincts but transmitting the results electronically to the city and town and national canvassing and consolidation centers is PROTECTING and PRESERVING our authentic and only exercise of democracy with our ballots.
      May your fellow columnist Marlen Ronquilloo and such usually and relatively honest people like Senators Sotto and Angara who WRONGLY think PCOS machines are good get to read your column today and realize their error
      God, please have mercy on us Filipinos.

      • Yes, manual counting and tallying at the precinct level, securely sending the official ER hard copies to the min/cities, encoding the precinct ERs at the mun/city levels and electronic transmission of the electronic ERs to the provincial and central canvassing servers from there SHOULD be the solution. Any Goldbergian-contraption addition at the precinct level such as a tablet and a LCD projector will complicate the system not to mention make it costly and more difficult to make it Snafu-free.

    14. Sino makakapigil kay sixto brilliantes,kung hawak siya ni Aquino?at kung retired ka na ano ang pangagastos niya kung sa kaling may magdemanda sa kanya!

      • The people should force Brillantes’ early retirement by clamoring for it. If there are enough voices calling for him to retire, his ears will be so painful that he will step down voluntarily. I know it is wishful thinking but it could be tried.