The Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) is urging the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) to conduct another voting simulation after failing to achieve the facilitation of a time and motion study “due to missing election day stakeholders and low voter turnout, which was only 11.31 percent.

In a statement, LENTE, which participated as observers at the COMELEC’s Voting Simulation Exercise on October 23, 2021, in San Juan Elementary School, said the conduct of another round of voting simulation may be done before the drafting of General Instructions.

LENTE’s participation in the exercise is to help ensure safe, accountable, inclusive, transparent elections which will inspire national public confidence.

“With this level of voter participation, we are unable to assess if the newly-introduced safety measures, such as the holding rooms and Isolation Polling Place, are enough to ensure the health and safety of all election stakeholders,” said LENTE Policy Consultant Atty. Helen Graido.

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“A single round of simulation is not enough to give us a clear picture of Election Day 2022, and we need to be prepared in the interest of democracy, public health, and safety,” said Atty. Ona Caritos, Executive Director of LENTE. “We should widen the scope of participants in the future simulations.”

With the observations derived during the COMELEC’s Voting Simulation, LENTE strongly proposes the following specific recommendations:

Voting Center Entrance

  1. Queueing can be managed by deploying separate priority lanes for the following: Voters who are members of the vulnerable sectors and voters who exhibit symptoms on the day of elections.  
  2. The triaging process should be designed and consulted with health experts, given the expected volume on Election Day and limited manpower. 

Voters’ Assistance Desk (VAD)

  1. Separate priority for voters belonging to the vulnerable sectors should be set up.
  2. Waiting time can be shortened through the deployment of additional support staff who will attend to the queries of the voters. 
  3. Voters must be encouraged to check their precinct assignments prior to Election Day.

The online precinct finder should be launched soon, while the Voter Information System (VIS) should be fully implemented to cater to those without internet access.  

Emergency Accessible Polling Place (EAPP)
Additional Support Staff should be deployed to assist in the functions of the EAPP:
a. Orientation of eligible voters as to the purpose and consequences of availing of the EAPP;
b. Distribution and collection of authorization forms for voters; and
c.  Getting from and returning to the original polling places the ballots of the EAPP voters. 

The number of additional support staff should be computed in proportion to the voter count. EAPPs are designed to cater to the most vulnerable sectors of the voting population, thus, any unnecessary extension of their waiting times increases their risk of exposure to COVID-19.  

Set-up of Polling Place

  1. The 3-classroom set-up may contribute to crowd dispersal, but it may be vulnerable to illegal handling of election paraphernalia and vote-buying. If there is a separate VCM room, the voter shall be allowed to exit the voting room with his ballot on hand. 
  2. Additional Support Staff should be deployed to take care of the queuing system among the several stations inside the Voting Center (Triage, VAD, EAPP, and/or regular polling places). 
  3. As visual cues, signages must be properly placed inside the Voting Center.   

Isolation Polling Place (IPP)
The purpose of the IPP is to prevent disenfranchisement of voters who exhibit symptoms on Election Day must be clearly communicated to the public. This can promote participation since their fear of not being able to vote due to being sick is eliminated. 

The functions of the IPP may be best served by an ample amount of support staff. This can result in a decrease in waiting time and amount of exposure, both for voters and personnel manning the IPP. 

Preparation Protects the Process
LENTE also recommends that medical experts and public-health-oriented CSOs should also be tapped as observers. Effective safety protocols should be products of consultations with health experts for voters to be assured that protocols are up to date and responsive to the given context.

“We look forward to COMELEC considering and applying our recommendations not just in future simulations, but most importantly on election day itself” concluded Atty. Caritos. “A safe, accountable, transparent, and inclusive election, this is what the Filipino voters want and deserve.”

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