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Be prepared for those final few minutes

THREE days are left in the campaign period. Voters have just about made up their minds. What they must now concentrate on doing is make sure they get through the voting process without a hitch, as quickly as possible, and avoid mistakes that could invalidate their ballot.

The voting centers open at 6 p.m. and close at 5 p.m. – 11 hours in all – to accommodate the additional process mandated by the Supreme Court. This is the issuance of a small paper receipt to assure the voter that the machine read his ballot right.

To familiarize as many people as possible with the voting process, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic have been holding demonstrations of the new Vote Counting Machines (VCMs) and instructing prospective voters – from filling in the proper red circles opposite one’s candidates’ names, to feeding the ballot into the machine, to the quick reading of the small receipt recording one’s vote.

There is a ban on bringing out the receipt and on taking a photograph of it, lest it be used in vote-buying. But there is as yet no ban on taking a photograph of one’s filled ballot in the secrecy provided by the standing ballot folders.

This is as far as the voter’s participation goes. After he casts his ballot and leaves the precinct, the long process of identifying and certifying voters, assisting in feeding the machines, and gathering all the materials used continues for the Board of Election Inspectors. Finally at the end of the 11 hours of voting, the board will transmit the results of via Internet or Broadband Global Area Network.

It is important that the voter know in advance what he must do in his few minutes inside the precinct to avoid mistakes that may invalidate his vote – such as improperly making the red circle with just a dot or a cross, instead of filling the entire circle. Any other mark elsewhere on the ballot will invalidate it. Vote for no more than 12 senators and one party-list organization.

Those few minutes in the precinct are the culmination of the individual voter’s role in this democratic process that is our triennial election. Each of us must prepare well for those few minutes so that our voice will be heard when the votes are counted and the nation’s decision is announced.