Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Who's Afraid of Automated Elections?

In a time when everything is fast-paced, our leaders doggedly cling to the tortoise-like pace of counting ballots.
An Inquirer report has this to say:
MalacaƱang should understand that there is no more time to implement full automation in the May 2010 election, Deputy Speaker and Cebu Representative Pablo Garcia said.
We've been through this for a very long time. We know the advantages of having automated elections - how wonderful it is to see elections in other countries where counting takes only a few hours. What's stopping us from implementing the same here?
Okay, the implementation of full automation may be difficult, but it is not insurmountable. The expenses may be high, but I'm sure the government can throw in a few more bucks just to overhaul our antiquated system. If we can award millions of pesos to Mega Pacific for junk, then we can surely afford an effective system.
Our congressmen would have none of that. There are other problems to tackle:
[Congressman Pablo] Garcia said full automation could not be carried out because Republic Act 9369 mandated the use of both manual and the electronic system.

It also requires the participation of watchers in the counting of votes in the precinct. If the votes in the precinct will be counted by the machines, then the watchers will no longer have participation in the process, he added.

“The danger is there is no more human intervention, the machine will perform or function as it is told to do by the brain or source code,” Garcia said.

Counting the votes in the precinct level using the machines will also require some 80,000 machines and the same number of persons who should be “technically-competent” and certified by the Department of Science and Technology.
As to the illegality of full automation because it goes against R.A. 9369, it is merely making a mountain out of a molehill. They are Congress, for Aout loud! Amend the law so the issues can be reconciled! Problem solved!
As to human intervention, I don't think more human involvement helps the cause. In fact, it is more of a hindrance. Less human intervention means less chances of cheating, right? Or maybe, that's exactly what politicians fear.
Now, the problem of "technically-competent" persons merit serious consideration. As to how technically competent the machine operator would be would depend on the machine involved. If the machine is user-friendly enough, I'm sure our teachers are able enough to know how it works. The issue, therefore, hinges on the machine to be obtained, and not necessarily to the operator thereof.
Sure, there are risks in implementing a new system like this. But I believe that the pros far outweigh the cons. There is no better time than now to change our election system and to minimize election cheating. Resources are not lacking, willpower is.

Photo: Ken Bosma, Flickr, Creative Commons

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