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We vote again today for barangay, SK leaders

The nation goes to the polls today to cast their votes in the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections. The last time these were held was in 2013, five years ago, and there was a move in the House of Representatives to cancel today’s elections yet again, but the Senate fortunately did not go along with it.

Since 2010, we have been holding automated elections for our national and local government officials, with the names of all candidates printed and with squares or ovals where voters are to mark their choices. Machines provided by Smartmatic decipher the voters’ marks and, at the end of the day, spew out the results of the voting in the precinct.

This has led to some questions over the authenticity of the machines’ tallies. Even now, there is an ongoing protest in the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) on the votes cast for vice president in 2016. While the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had considered a 25 percent shading of an oval sufficient to indicate a vote, the PET is sticking to 50 percent in its ongoing recount. The results of the two counts – that of the Comelec and that of the PET – are thus bound to be different.

Today’s barangay and SK elections are not automated. Each voter will have a blank ballot in which to write down the names of his chosen candidates. There is no danger of automatic counting machines making a mistake over whether an oval is 25 or 50 percent shaded. The election officials in each voting center will be manually examining each ballot and toting up the results on a blackboard for all to see.

The Comelec has instructed voters to avoid placing anything on the ballot – like smiley or some other mark – as this may be considered a marked ballot and thus declared a stray vote. The important thing is that the names of he chosen candidates are written clearly and legibly.

This was how all elections were held before 2010. After the polls closed in the afternoon, people gathered to watch the manual counting of results which were posted on a bulletin board in the classroom used as voting center. Elections were community affairs – from the campaigning, to the voting, to the counting, to the celebrating by the victors.

In contrast, in today’s automated elections for president and vice president, senators, governors, mayors, and other local government officials, the results simply come out of the voting machines at one stroke.

There will be opportunities later for our officials to make a study and assessment of our elections and perhaps consider the persistent calls for a return to manual elections as being more open and more reflective of the people’s will. For today, let us just welcome this opportunity to cast our votes and elect our barangay and kabataan officials who are the closest officials to the people in our communities in our country.