Now that the Supreme Court has order the printing of the voter verified paper audit trail or the VVPAT, generically referred to as the voter receipt, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is in a rush to look into how it can comply with the directive while expressing the possibility of switching to manual elections, postponing it, or putting forward a no election scenario. News reports, however, indicate that the poll body is set to file a Motion for Reconsideration and will seek to demonstrate VVPAT printing and explain its time and motion studies.
The Supreme Court decision came as welcome news to groups who have long been demanding that VVPAT printing be enabled. VVPAT printing will result in increased credibility of the election results by empowering the voters to check if the PCOS machine correctly identified and recorded a voter’s choices as marked on the ballot.
Recall the CF card fiasco in 2010. Close to 79,000 CF cards were recalled and the ballot configuration files stored in the CF cards were updated in less than five days. Unlike in 2010 where the PCOS machines were already deployed in clustered precincts nationwide, this time around the PCOS machines are still in the warehouse in Sta. Rosa. Comelec and Smartmatic did it in 2010. They can do it today.
Is enabling the VVPAT printing doable with just about fifty-five (55) days left before election day?
Smartmatichas indicated that enabling VVPAT printing in each PCOS machine will require a configuration change in the PCOS configuration file. The PCOS configuration file is generated by the Election Management System (EMS). Smartmatic will have to open the EMS software source code and modify it to turn on the “soft switch” parameter that enables the VVPAT printing by the PCOS.
The EMS source code, after modifying it, will have to be re-compiled. This process should take a day at the most. The modified EMS software will then be used to generate the updated PCOS configuration file for each clustered precinct, store each precinct specific PCOS configuration file in 92,500 SD cards for each of the 92,500 PCOS machines, which are still in the warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The process of replacing the SD cards will also involve moving the packed PCOS from storage to production area and back. This requires sufficient number of personnel.
Fifty-five (55) days to election day, as of this writing. Assuming that the machines should be at the precincts ten (10) days before election day for the final testing and sealing activity and fifteen (15) days to deploy the machines to the remotest areas, Comelec and Smartmatic have thirty (30) days to update the contents of the SD Card and install the corresponding SD Card into a PCOS that will deployed to a clustered precinct.
At the production area, each PCOS technician will have to unpack the PCOS, replace the SD card, test the PCOS, and, assuming it passes the test, repack the PCOS. It may be assumed that this work sequence will take an hour to complete.
Assuming that there are two hundred (200) PCOS technicians per shift, these technicians will be able to process 1,600 PCOS machines. With three shifts, six hundred (600) PCOS technicians will be able to complete 4,800 PCOS machines.
About 92,500 PCOS machines will be deployed nationwide. Replacing the SD Cards in all machines will take about twenty days (92,500 divided by 4,800 = 19.27 days ~ 20 days).
Doable? The foregoing assumes a problem free process. If a problem occurs, Comelec and Smartmatic have ten (10) days to spare. Comelec and Smartmatic will have to work continuously.
With the possible modification of the EMS software, interested parties closely watching the preparation of the automated election system might demand another review of the modified EMS source code and the same to undergo another trusted-build activity.
Comelec and Smartmatic will have to augment the existing number of technicians they have working at the Sta. Rosa, Laguna warehouse. How soon can Comelec and Smartmatic recruit and hire the additional heads required to do the job? Comelec and Smartmatic will also have to train the new hires.
Comelec also has to procure additional rolls of t hermal paper. Comelec will have to do this as soon as possible.
Comelec and Smartmatic will also have to retrain members of the board of election inspectors who have received an earlier training.
Let’s fact IT. The Supreme Court decision ordering the Comelec to enable VVPAT printing may have forced the Comelec to fit several months worth of activities into thirty (30) days. Comelec needs to focus on the challenge of enabling the VVPAT printing in each PCOS machine and other activities that stem from it instead of looking for other roadblocks.