Safety of voter registration to test Comelec capacity to run 2022 polls

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    THE National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) yesterday expressed belief that the success of the forthcoming resumption of the voter registration process can determine as to whether the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can safely hold the May 2022 polls or not.

    In a statement, Namfrel said the forthcoming resumption of the voter registration should be seen as an important indicator on how the Comelec would be handling the conduct of the next presidential elections amidst a pandemic.

    “Namfrel remains hopeful that starting with the registration, the Comelec would adopt processes that are efficient, cost effective, and have the utmost safety of Filipinos in mind, to invite confidence from the public and from polling staff that they would not be exposed to infection if they go out to vote or do their poll duties in 2022,” said Namfrel.

    The Comelec has announced the resumption of the registration of voters for the May 2022 elections on September 1 nationwide, except in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified ECQ.

    With the resumption comes anti-COVID protocols, like preventing symptomatic applicants from entering Comelec premises, ensuring physical distancing, requiring applicants to wear face masks and face shields, and encouraging applicants to bring their own pens.

    And according to Namfrel, there are many ways where the poll body can still improve the protocols before it resumes on September 1.

    It said it believes that the Comelec should not be contented in simply encouraging applicants to download and accomplish the application forms before heading to voter registration centers.

    “We believe that Comelec could take the anti-COVID precautions further by making it a requirement to download and accomplish the forms, and for the applicants to bring their own writing materials, instead of being mere recommendations,” said Namfrel.

    The poll watchdog group said the poll body may also take it a step further by making it a fully online registration process.

    “The Comelec can explore the possibility of digitally transforming the registration process, by allowing a voter registrant, using any electronic device like a laptop, tablet, or smartphone, to fill out a registration form online and submit the same electronically,” it said.

    Another measure that the Commission may consider is adopting an online appointment system for application for voter registration, similar to the ones used in securing passports and NBI clearances.