PART of the preparations for the 2022 national and local elections is the registration of new voters, transferring of voters due to change of domicile, reactivation of voters who were deactivated because they missed two succeeding elections and registration of overseas Filipino workers.
Voter registration is up until the end of September 2021 but has been temporarily put on hold in some areas due to the imposition of enhanced community quarantines.
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has reportedly cleansed the voter database by delisting some 7 million individuals. Further reports indicate that the poll body has received the registration papers of some 2.5 million prospective voters. The Comelec set a target of 7 million registrations for the 2022 elections. The poll body still has to woo about 4.5 million new voters.
Available figures from the 2019 elections show that there were 61,843,750 registered voters. The delisting of some 7 million voters brings the figure down to 54,843,750 registered voters. If all 2.5 million registrants make it to the list, the figure goes up to 57,343,750 registered voters as of date.
Let’s look at the breakdown by age range of registered voters per Comelec figures vis-à-vis the population per the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) numbers.
In the age range 18 to 19, PSA numbers show a population of 10,203,900 individuals. There are, according to Comelec, some 2,349,118 registered voters in this age group.
In the age range 20 to 24, PSA numbers show a population of 9,292,500 individuals, with 8,768,702 of them registered voters.
The millennial age group is broken down into 25 to 29, 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 age ranges, with corresponding population of 9,292,500, 8,048,600 and 7,128,200, respectively. Comelec data show respective numbers of registered voters at 8,768,702, 7,415,553 and 6,655,556. In sum, there are 24,464,300 millennials, with 22,839,811 of them registered voters.
Similarly, the Gen X age group is broken down into 40 to 44, 44 to 49 and 50 to 54 age ranges with 6,440,400, 5,700,300 and 5,051,400 individuals in the respective age ranges and registered voters in the corresponding age ranges as follows: 5,850,758, 5,277,267 and 4,658,232.
There are 4,192,300 individuals in the boomer generation or those within the age range of 55 to 59, of whom 4,007,088 are registered voters.
In the senior citizens, age 60 and up, category, there are 9,210,200 senior citizens. Of this number, 9,142,066 are registered voters. Oops, the number of registered voters in this age group is overstated by 21,866 individuals.
Of the 75,147,900 individuals who are qualified to vote, there are only 61,843,750 registered voters, or a shortfall of 13,304,150 individuals who remain unregistered.
What could be the reasons for the nonregistration?
Needs and concerns vary between and among age groups.
The youth group, age ranges 15 to 19 and 20 to 24, comprising 10,095,472 individuals, can be a force to reckon with. But many in these groups have faced challenges early in life: poverty, lack of educational opportunities and poor job prospects. So perhaps they do not see meaningful change coming. Maybe it’s lack of awareness and education. Or, perhaps the young do not see how they can meaningfully participate in democratic processes because they see the same politicians control the process.
Registration is a physical challenge for those who live in remote areas. They need to go up and down the mountain and/or cross rivers and face dangers. It is also a financial challenge for some as they would need to spend for transportation and meals.
Or, the prospective voters lack the ability to read and write.
Or, some may not have any form of identification, no birth certificates. In fact, registering with the Comelec brings that opportunity to have an ID. Unfortunately, the poll body has stopped issuing voter’s IDs. The alternative is to secure a certificate of voter registration that can be used as an identification document, but this is for a fee — an additional expense for the citizen.
Or, many may have become jaded as they have gone through the same process. Politicians appear only during the campaign period at election time, shaking hands and making promises. These citizens hold on to those promises hoping that it will change their lives. In the end, those elected into office fail to deliver and the citizens become disillusioned.
Or, maybe at this time of the pandemic, people are afraid to go to the Comelec offices to register for fear of getting infected with Covid-19.
How to resolve these hurdles?
For the youth, especially those in school, participating in democratic processes should perhaps be part of the curriculum. This may be a long process, but this has to be done.
The Comelec should bring voter registration down to the barangay and/or community centers which are more accessible to prospective voters where barangay officials can vouch for the identity of those who do not have any form of identification and provide assistance to those who lack the ability to read and write.
The Comelec should issue voter’s IDs for free as incentive.
It’s hard to find a solution for jaded prospective voters. Perhaps an information campaign on the functions of the elective offices and the qualities of candidates for the elective posts would serve as guide.
Afraid to get Covid-19 infected? Prospective voters need not worry because the Comelec has implemented the necessary health protection measures to ensure that the process is Covid-proofed.
The poll body also needs to check the 60-and-up age group since there are more registered voters than the population in this age range.
The Comelec should go beyond voter registration campaigns and directly engage prospective voters.