Comelec mulls options for 2022 automated polls

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    LESS than three years before the May 2022 presidential polls, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is looking at three possible automated election systems (AES) it can use in the next electoral exercise.

    Elections spokesman James Jimenez said the Comelec is already looking into the different options for the voting machines they will use for the next national and local polls, with special consideration on the system’s budget requirements.

    “We proposed to our legislators three types of budget. One is for the hybrid system, two for the use of current machines plus additional, and three for a whole new batch of machines,” Jimenez said in an interview.

    So far, the poll official said the hybrid system, which is a combination of the manual voting and counting and automated transmission and canvassing, is the most expensive of the three options.

    Jimenez said election officials were surprised at the potential cost of adopting the hybrid system, which has long been pushed by former poll commissioner Gus Lagman.

    “I do not have the exact figure. But I think it’s twice what we would normally pay for an election. Twice or up to three times even. If you are looking at budget purposes only, it is really surprising that it would balloon to that level,” Jimenez said.

    He, however, believes that the high cost of adopting the hybrid system is just a small factor if lawmakers are serious about adopting the system.

    “I don’t think that’s going to be a major hindrance for the legislators if they really want to go on a certain path… Ultimately, whatever it costs is whatever democracy costs. It doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things,” he said.

    President Duterte has urged the Comelec to dispose the machines of Smartmatic International and look for a new system that is free of fraud.

    Senate President Vicente Sotto III, on the other hand, had pushed for the use of a hybrid election system once the poll body decides to junk the voting machines procured from Smartmatic.