A simple Election Automation Project analysis

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Since the beginning of the controversy surrounding PCOS, Comelec, some politicians, and some newspaper columnists have been asking why IT practitioners, of all people, are recommending a return to manual precinct-counting. Bakit nga ba? We have explained the reasons over and over again and yet they keep repeating the same question. Either, we are not explaining it enough, they are not capable of understanding the explanation, or they simply refuse to understand.

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The reason is simple. Doing away with manual precinct-counting, but losing transparency and spending billions of pesos in the process, just doesn’t make sense. IT practitioners have done the standard project analysis to arrive at this conclusion – something that, apparently, neither the Comelec nor its Advisory Council, did not do.

The following table or chart is another attempt at explaining this reason. The chart shows the time durations in the election process, the savings in time when automation is applied, and the cost of the automation.

Automation20141203
* TCRES=Transparent and Credible Election System

**Electronic transmission and canvassing are exactly the same in both PCOS-based system and TCRES

Notes:
1. P16.7 billion is the budget Comelec was asking for.

2. For TCRES, P4 billion is to be used for the purchase of tablets (iPad clones), printers, and projectors for the precincts; also for project management fees

3. P1 billion for electronic transmission (P800 million) and canvassing servers (P200 million).

The chart above clearly shows that Comelec would be wasting P12 billion pesos of taxpayer money on PCOS just to save 12 hours in the election process. No self-respecting IT practitioner would make that recommendation.

Benefits in using TCRES
1. The tablet/projector combination will make the precinct-counting much more transparent to the voting public

2. The equipment can be purchased in the major cities at standard prices; logistics will therefore be simpler and cheaper. Wealth would be better distributed, not centralized to a foreign vendor.

3. The equipment purchased can be donated to the public schools that hosted the voting centers; therefore no warehousing and maintenance cost.

4. The savings will allow the increase in teachers’ allowances; or the deployment of a separate team to handle the precinct-counting.

5. The Open Source software will allow greater transparency in the system.

6. “Dagdag-bawas,” which occurs in canvassing (not in precinct-counting), will be eliminated. Unlike in the 2010 and 2013 implementations, tight controls should naturally be incorporated into the canvassing process.

Did the Comelec and/or the Comelec Advisory Council even bother to do this very simple project analysis? If not, then they have no business asking for billions of pesos of taxpayer money!

* * *

An item in a newspaper daily (not this paper) reported on November 26, 2014 that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. bucks manual polls in 2016.

“He said the Comelec should ignore groups calling for a return to the cheating-prone manual balloting.

“ ‘They are just making noise and looking for what’s advantageous to them,’ he said.”

Speaker Belmonte has probably not been informed that large-scale cheating (dagdag-bawas) occurs in canvassing, not in precinct-counting. Whatever acts of cheating that may happen at the precincts are what are referred to as “retail cheating,” which somehow evens out when the bailiwicks of the different parties/candidates are considered. He may also not have been informed that groups calling for a return to manual precinct-counting are composed of IT practitioners who know their craft and who are NOT VENDORS of election systems, so they are only looking for what is advantageous to the country.

In the same report, Chairman Brillantes was quoted as saying they [the Comelec]would also pilot-test a newer technology similar to touch screen mobile communications devices.

Election advocates have been saying this technology is what is being discarded in many countries – Australia is the latest among them. Germany, the Netherlands, Ireland, and some states in the United States did so earlier.

In addition, this technology costs about 3-4 times more than PCOS.

What are these people thinking?

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4 Comments

  1. Manual voting is still the best and convenient election procedure, provided, ELECTION RESULTS AS CANVASSED AND COUNTED AT EVERY PRECINT MUST BE OFFICIAL AND FINAL. RESULTS MUST BE THEN ELECTRONICALLY TRANSMITTED TO THE MUNICIPAL ELECTION OFFICER FOR COLLATION AND CONSOLIDATION ONLY. ABOLISH THE MUNICIPAL AND PROVINICIAL BOARD OF CANVASSERS, WHERE CHEATING USUALLY OCCURS.

  2. Its what keeps them in power so of course they will not change it. That would be like pulling out a tooth without anesthesia. Change must come from outside this system. Like pulling teeth, that would have to be bloody.

  3. A manual transparent counting system is what we should have. The manual counts should be transcribed onto a computer spreadsheet. Each precinct should then electronically send the spreadsheets to Comelec and then seal and store the votes under lock and key. Comelec should tally the precinct counts and announce the results. Everystep should be open to public view and auditing samples taken by a party not involved with any candidate. This is not rocket science.

    Electronic voting systems are hidden from view and easily manipulated by one person or a few people.

  4. These people simply want to have activities from which to draw kickbacks and commissions, nothing more. They have above average intelligence, yet they seem not to understand the sensible position of the I T experts. When it comes to money, people tend to fake not knowing proper procedures, good manners, and right conduct.