Elections and technology in the Philippines: fact checking and automated counting of results

More than 67 million people are eligible to vote in the general elections this May 9 In Philippines. These elections elect the presidency, the vice presidency, 12 seats in the Senate, 300 seats in the lower house and approximately 18,000 local positions, from city mayors and provincial governors to seats in local councils in a country of 7,000 islands.

As a novelty, the Elections Commission (Comelec) established alliances with technology companies YouTube and Google to support voters in verifying election information.

The platforms offer voters key election factsas well as electoral information panels about the different candidates, their political parties, the position they are running for and other relevant content.

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James Jiménez, director of the organization filipino electoralassured that this mechanism will “empower” the voter, since “it will allow them to access reliable information”, which “is essential to consolidate an informed electorate”.

In a context of disinformation, defined by the Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR as “the massive dissemination of false information with the intention of deceiving the public and knowing that it is false”, the electoral authorities of the Asian country recognized that the access to authorized sources of information will be “crucial” this year.

In the interest of confronting disinformation strategies, Google Asia Pacific revealed that between February 2021 and January 2022, more than 400 thousand videos uploaded from Google were removed. Philippines for breaking the guidelines established by Comelec.

Manual voting, automated counting and results online

The electoral body will use the Vote Counting Machines (VCM), in order to facilitate the casting of votecounting and transmission of results.

Once the voters mark their preferences in each category of the ballots, they must enter them in the VCM to be scanned. The devices are made up of an LCD screen scanner that shows the voter the preferences that he marked on the ballot, so that if he is satisfied, he can approve them. Otherwise, you will be able to press a reset button, which will allow you to rescan your ballot.

Once the voter confirms his preferencesthe device will issue a paper voucher, which will be verified and subsequently entered in the ballot box.

At the conclusion of the electoral process, the polling officers and members of Comelec will proceed to conclude the scanning process and the transmission and consolidation of results. Once finished, the board members accredited for handling the VCM must sign the closure, and the machine will proceed to issue a final report on paper.

When confirming these data, they must insert the Internet USB or the network cable in the machine so that it sends the final report to the Central Server.

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Near real-time results

The results of the elections will be received by the Central Server, the Counting Server of the City or Municipality and the Transparency Server. The results will be published on the Comelec website almost in real time.

The Consolidation and Scrutiny System (CCS) will allow for the automated counting and monitoring of the data received from the polling stations.

Comelec will deploy a total of 1,739 laptops CCS throughout the country, and will have 2 data centers for the centralization of information and its subsequent dissemination to political parties and other accredited organizations.

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In the case of the Philippines, technology has been fundamental to facilitate the electoral process in a country that, due to its characteristics (an archipelago of 7,000 islands) and its electoral demography (almost 70 million eligible voters), represents a logistical challenge like few others.

Although the voting instrument is a paper ballot that contains all the categories, the VCM do the work that in “electoral manualism” (a term coined by Leandro Querido) corresponds to the polling station authorities, who face manual scrutiny after of 10 or 12 hours of work, often without the necessary training, often making mistakes or being victims of partisan prosecutors.

* Jesus Delgado Valery. Director of Institutional Development of Electoral Transparency. @JesusDValery. @TransparenciaAL

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