A Step Forward: 2 Ways to a Better Election

Hello again! After realizing the lack of a proper system and oh so many improper things about our Philippine election, I devised a little dream proposal that I hope can try at least to remedy the several system issues that we have. Okay, the keyword today is SYSTEM. When you think of a system, you think: ORGANIZATION: A proper, step-by-step process done with precision and understanding of each step. You think of a better outcome and nicely done end products. Presenting two proposals about election systems, and the third one is more about improving the automated election (if we ever do such a thing again.. I really hope we do).
I focused mainly on the three major steps it takes to properly vote: THE REGISTRATION, THE WAIT DURING ELECTION, and the VOTING PROPER. Below is proposal number one: ONLINE VOTING.

1. ONLINE/COMPUTER VOTING
Rationale: Instead of having a manual voting process and an automated counting process (PCOS) computers (particularly laptops) will be set up as our vote boxes. In the same manner as how we vote on online polls and Yahoo Groups, this is how we will vote for our next president, vice president, senators, mayor, vice mayor and members of congress.
PROS: Convenience, quicker voting, easier tutorial compared to automated elections (ang bilog, ang bilog na hugis itlog!).. just a click of a button.
CONS: Lack of signal in some places, possible hacking to rig the election, and possible technology-related troubleshooting issues.

A. REGISTRATION
(Plan, plan, plan!)
=> As early as two to three years before the year of the election, voters should already be told to register at their respective places of registration. Another thing that must be done by the COMELEC is to create something called the VOTER MAINTENANCE committee. These people will be given the current list of registered voters, and they are given the responsibility of calling up the voters and asking if those voters are still alive, still intend to vote and other things related to voter registration. If the person is deceased or does not intend to vote anymore they should immediately be scratched off the list. The VMC will also be responsible for voter-related statistics, like who of the registered voters really did practice their right to vote, or if these people simply registered.
=> PROCESS: Depending on the size of the precinct and the number of voters, the following should be the given process. Let’s say the election is in 2010, as early as 2007 or 2008 this should be followed: for each month of the year, starting from January, people with last names that start with A-C will be given their chance to register. Or they should arrange the registration batches by priority: first, the youth (first-time voters, voters aged 18-23), then the young adult voters (24 and above) and then the repeat voters (loyal registered voters). The following information should be solicited from these voters: address, telephone number, e-mail, etc and last but not least, familiarity with technology. The young voters will have no problem with that, but it is the older voters and those with no internet access that will be prioritized. Immediately after voter registration, the registered voters who have filled in their application will be asked to wait in a certain room while an assigned checker will ask which of the people are not familiar with using a computer or with the use of technology. The people who are familiar will be asked to leave, not before they are given a brochure with how to vote, and a special ‘I registered’ pin/lanyard/baller. Those that aren’t very good with technological stuff will be asked to attend a one hour quick tutorial on how to vote via the computer. These classes will be held at the COMELEC if possible or at a nearby school with computer rooms. Afterwards, for those unfamiliar with technology, a mock election will be held. If they already are familiar with the process, they will be then allowed to leave with the same I Registered pin/lanyard/baller. Projected time frame: 2 years at the most, a year and a half at the least.
=> KEEPING IT: In order for those voters who were enrolled in the vote tutorial not to forget what they learned, the COMELEC should make a how-to video (a proper one) and have it air (preferably close to election period). Other means include flyers, print media and free tutorial classes being held in the COMELEC or in nearby areas sponsored by the COMELEC still.

B. WAITING TIME (during election period)
=> Long lines, heat and disorganization are three main factors that made voting a sacrifice, not a duty.
=> PROCESS: Instead of directly lining up outside their respective voting precincts, when voters arrive at the said schools where they will vote, they will be led to a ‘waiting area’ (could be a basketball court/outdoor garden/unused classrooms) where they can wait to vote. Bringing of snacks and other amusements, and companions will be encouraged for the voters. Also, the school or others may bring in outside food sellers/amusements for the waiting voters. Names will be called alphabetically. The rooms MUST be filled up (full capacity) and all members of a particular batch should be done before the next group of people is called. At this rate, people will consider voting a family outing instead of some grueling wait for something good to happen. Elderly voters and other disabled voters will be given priority and they will have two classrooms set aside for those disabled people (they may bring escorts, if some cannot use the computers). The polling areas will also be open as late as 10-11pm to accommodate late voters.
=> PROS: Smoother and more enjoyable voting experience.
=> CONS: It will not be that applicable to all voting zones all over the country.

C. VOTING PROPER
=> Before the voting, all computers (preferably laptops) must be firewalled and all advanced antivirus and anti-spyware be installed (original CDS of those programs should be provided and all provided laptops installed with the said software).
=> PROCESS: The program will be similar to the polls on Yahoo! Groups and on other webpages where you can vote in a poll. Voters will simply have to click on the circle beside their chosen candidate (like in Yahoo! polls) and then voila! You’ve voted. Here’s the step-by-step
1. Each computer will be already opened to the vote server. The voter will be asked to fill up their name, voter number, address and other details and then after filling in those details (all fields must be filled up), the person can click the vote button and the Yahoo Groups style-poll form will appear. P.S. The vote program will not accept a voter BELOW EIGHTEEN years of age.
2. The poll form will be like this: first, president (chose one) and then the list of presidents, vice-president, senatorials and so on. Beside each position the number of circles needed to be clicked on will be indicated. Afterwards, the voter may click the done button and a prompt will appear: Are you sure about your vote? It will give the user a two-minute period to do any last-minute changes on their choice. If they are sure they may click the ‘i’m sure’ button and then ‘congratulations, you voted!’ will appear on the screen. The program will then return to the empty voter form again.
3. Once the person is done, he/she will instead put black nail polish on their index finger (with topcoat). Nail polish takes longer to wash off and it has to be scrapped instead of just ‘washed’. :))
4. Each computer in the precinct will be connected to a main server in the said area (the main computer). There will be two main computers, where all the votes will be transmitted to for the precinct. Once the votes have been received, there will be an automatic tabulation report made by the vote program, and this will be the one that will appear on the main computer, a total already of all votes for the given posts. This report will then be sent to where they are consolidated. There will be a server that will receive votes per precinct set up, and then the tabulated report will be sent via e-mail to the main counting body in each region. If the signal does not work, the report will be printed out instead and taken by hand by two election officers and respective army guards to where the votes are counted.
=> Requirements: The PNP and AFP will be tasked to provide a battallion of guards per precinct armed with guns. These men will be tasked to protect the voters and protect the votes being cast. Inspections will be done by PNP at the entrance of each precinct. No candidate will be allowed inside unless he/she is a registered voter of the said precinct or if he/she wishes to vote. If ever there is no signal for the internet and the vote report will not be sent, the battallion of AFP will follow the two assigned messengers of the vote count report to where the votes are consolidated.

OVERALL:
=> Computers are cheaper than PCOS machines, especially if in exchange for nationwide adverts major computer companies will gladly provide the laptops for the voting. It will cost us, but it will cost us less. After the election these computers may also be used by the schools as teaching aids, which will be a big help for most public schools. To lessen foot traffic and waiting time, voters who have internet access may be given the chance to vote online at a set server site. Since they will register their names, precinct and voting number online, this name will be erased from the list of voters for the precinct, and if the person who voted online will go to the precinct and vote, they will not be allowed to vote once more because they already voted through the internet. There can be a month head-start for these voters that wish to vote online, or when they register and the option to vote online is given and they chose this option, a list of voters that will vote online can be made and these people will not need to go to the precincts anymore because of their intent to vote via the internet.
=> Voting via the net will also decrease the use of budget as there will be no need to print ballots anymore and election returns. Instead, modern technology will be used. Technological security must be tightened, though. We must make sure that the votes are protected when they are transmitted via the net, and that there will be no electricity cuts like blackouts, and hopefully, no thunderstorms. If that isn’t the case then backup ballots and returns SHOULD be printed just in case.
=> At least the voting vessel (the computer) will be not as alien as a PCOS machine to a SMART-MATIC student technician. =D
=> P.S. The food industry could also benefit from this election. They should’ve thought of providing dinner meals to the teachers who are facilitating the elections. These brave men and women do their duty bravely and they are at the front lines when it comes to enduring the spite and anger of the voters. It’s a win-win situation.
=> POSSIBILITY: 3 out of 10.

2. AUTOMATED ELECTION 2.0
=> Everyone knows this and they know it’s true, automated elections are not a bad idea. To have automated elections actually proves that we as a country are taking a step forward and not a step back in technological advancement. The automated elections would’ve been better, though, had proper planning been done earlier and a system be established prior to the election.

a. Registration
=> Planning is the keyword when it comes to registration. ABS-CBN did a very good job of soliciting voters and getting a lot of people, especially the youth to register. If only the media and government made partnerships like this tighter and more commonplace they could work together for an organized and a proper voting registration without the kicks.

b. Waiting
=> The batch-by-batch voting I suggested would be of great help to making voting less grueling and allowing the people to maximize the time frame they selected for open voting. They should’ve assigned each voter a number and called them in by groups to vote. Or, as said by a Cebu voter during an interview, ballots should’ve been distributed to the people lined up, and these people would’ve been able to vote ASAP. They should’ve assigned around a dozen people: six to provide the ballots and six to collect and oversee the voting. The danger of not voting in a proper area not with the vote watchers is that the people may be victims of peer pressure and other factors. So to have other assigned watchers oversee the outside voting would help, so at least the ballots can be collected from the people lined up and these people can leave.

c. Voting (I already cited my voting suggestion)

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