WE have criticized the automated election system, in particular, the use of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) for the lack of transparency of the counting process, for not meeting the accuracy requirement of 99.995%, for the incomplete transmission of results, and for not meeting some of the minimum system capabilities prescribed under Republic Act No. 8436 as amended by Republic Act No. 9369 or the Election Automation Law.
Then we were faced with a challenge. What alternative can we offer?
A group of IT professionals is in the thick of preparing an election system guided by criteria specified in the Election Automation Law. These include, among others, transparency and credibility of the process and accuracy of the election results. The election system is being designed around the use of available computing technologies such as laptops, tablets, and desktop PCs.
Transparency of the voting system may only be achieved if the recording and counting of votes can been seen by the voter, in particular, and the public, in general.
The election system being developed uses computing technology as an aid to the process of recording and counting of votes. A number of transparency measures is considered in the design and development:
1) an LCD projector will be used so that the recording and counting of votes may be viewed by the watchers,
2) a cctv camera or webcam will be connected to the computer so that the ballot may be displayed for public view,
3) the same cctv camera or webcam will used to capture the image of the ballot,
4) a manual tally sheet will be used to record the votes in parallel with the electronic recording,
5) a member of the Board of Election Inspectors will call out the names of candidates per position written on the ballot,
6) as required by law, copies of election returns will be printed and distributed to the parties or groups entitled to get copies of the election returns,
and 7) the election returns will be transmitted and displayed to a website so that those who have copies of the election returns may be able to immediately verify what has been posted on the website.
Security measures will likewise be embedded in the system.
The proof of concept of the election system has already been presented to various groups including the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Automated Election Systems and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
Naturally, after each presentation, questions, comments, criticisms, and suggestions arise. These are then processed into ideas that shape the system being developed.
This type of idea generation is the foundation of crowdsourcing, which is the process of soliciting ideas and contributions from a large group of people, in particular, from online communities, rather than from traditional sources.
Exposing the election system being developed to the Internet public will, we hope, generate more ideas on how to improve it.
As of now ideas are being generated in the email threads exchanged by the IT professionals. Among the technical, operational, and process suggestions are:
1) the transmission of election returns from the polling precinct to a server within the voting center will reduce data transmission points to half the number; if transmission from the voting center fails, all election returns from the voting center can be recorded in a write-once-read-many CD and hand-delivered to the city or municipal canvassing center,
2) precinct set up for the counting of votes,
and 3) re-designing the election returns.
There are yet a number of hurdles that the election system being developed will have to overcome.
Will the election system being developed meet the requirements of the Election Automation Law? Debates are now going around and as the legal issues are discussed, solutions are likely to take shape.
Some parties will criticize the use of manual process of vote recording and counting. Indeed, no automated voting machine will ever meet the transparency requirement as the process of recording and counting of votes is hidden from public view. The only transparent means of vote recording and counting is the manual process. Two proposals have been raised: 1) double the allowance of the members of the Board of Election Inspectors or 2) have two teams – one to cover the voting period and the other to work on the recording and counting of votes.
The software component of the election system for vote recording and counting has been developed. The IT professionals working on this are putting together a demonstration of this system as well as the necessary documentation so that the same may be exposed to the public for suggestions.
Let’s face it. Ideas abound. We can develop an automated election system that is truly “Gawang Pilipino para sa Pilipino.”