Automated Election

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I. Introduction
The Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) or Optical Mark Reader (OMR) technology system adopted by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) under the present political conditions and capability of the nation’s election manager, the Comelec, will make the whole electoral process bereft of credibility, transparency, or voter participation. With no electronic technology being invented that is safe from human intervention such as hacking and other types of computer attacks, the system will most likely lead to wholesale electronic cheating. Unbeknownst to the public and media, it will trigger a scramble for control of the key to the hardware and software technology among the moneyed and powerful. The May 2010 synchronized national and local elections where full automation or full electronic voting will be used for the first time is a major political event that should not be measured or prepared for solely on their installation of technology. It should be seen rather as one political exercise that remains dominated by the elite under the Arroyo government and where electronic technology may be manipulated to allow the oligarchs to remain in power. Such possibility has become stronger with the entrenchment of powerful fraud machineries, with the Comelec yet to solve its credibility problem and the overarching concern of election fraud is yet to be decisively addressed. The new technology system will be in the hands of these powers but the winning bidder which will most likely be a multinational company also shares this power. Under these conditions, the technology preferred by the Comelec will all the more reinforce the manipulative character of the traditional electoral process. The overall electoral struggle that seeks to bring progressive, non-traditional minds with a strong voice in Congress and in other elective positions has always included the campaign to make the Comelec independent and to have an open, transparent, and credible elections. The automation of the elections deserves the people’s support - but only insofar as it promotes the principle of “secret voting and public counting”; for as long as it would make the polls clean, transparent, and credible and would give election stakeholders especially the voters some latitude and leeway to participate and contest election results, among others. Contrary to what is now evolving, the modernization of the country’s election system is supposed to promote and enhance – not limit or constrain - the people’s voting rights as an expression of their sovereign power to choose the kind of government the people deserve. The Comelec’s PCOS (OMR) is drawing increasing opposition from leading IT specialists, computer science academe, independent centers engaged in electoral struggle and governance as well as members of Congress, the interfaith community and other critics. From their perspective, the technology system is vulnerable to wholesale electronic cheating (by external hacking, internal rigging, or other means) made possible by the fraud machineries, resources and powers of the regime - for that matter, of other powerful traditional politicians, TNCs, and a foreign power. The use of PCOS (OMR) will likely translate to huge election losses and the disenfranchisement of millions of voters. Comelec’s technology system makes counting, canvassing, and consolidation of election data invisible and difficult to track and are made so fast as to make the filing of election protests impossible and poll watching extremely difficult if not a futile exercise. Under the PCOS or OMR, the fate of the 2010 elections could as well be decided by Malacanang, Comelec, the winning bidder, and the cheats. The opposition to the PCOS (OMR) has included not only a critique of the various internal weaknesses, errors, and vulnerabilities of this technology as experienced in many countries including in the Philippines’ August 2008 ARMM elections but also procedures being pursued and adopted by...
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