Home stretch: Comelec conducts final testing, sealing before elections

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday (May 2) began its final testing and sealing of polling equipment in different precincts nationwide.

At the Araullo High School in Manila, a vote-counting machine kept rejecting a ballot — the first one cast at the final testing and sealing of poll equipment. The board of election inspectors had trouble figuring out what was wrong.

It turned out the machine was not properly mounted on the ballot box. It was fixed right away then everything worked smoothly.

Parish Pastoral Council on Responsible Voting (PPCRV) said finding technical problems are part of the testing.

"Kasama rin talaga yan sa testing. Kaya nga ang tawag natin dito ay 'final testing and sealing' kasi kasama sa pagte-test talaga yan,"said PPCRV's Dr. Arwin Serrano.

Final tests

The final testing and sealing will take place throughout the week at every poll precinct in the country. Poll inspectors will unbox the machines, other equipment, and materials, and set them up as they would on election day.

Ten people will fill out test ballots and rehearse the actual procedure, including the printing of voter receipts.

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A final step before the Comelec seals the equipment again is a manual audit. The board of election inspectors in Araullo High School compared the results based on a manual count of the ballots to the automated results to make sure the vote-counting machines read the votes accurately.

The automated and the manual results matched, which means the precinct passed the test.

"Maayos naman talaga yung nakita natin. Nakita naman natin dito na tama naman ang mga resulta ng bawat E.R. (election returns) na na-generate," said Serrano.

The Comelec hopes to replicate this in all the more than 92,000 precincts nationwide.

Bautista's concerns

Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista is not worried about the equipment, but the printing of receipts and the weather on election day.

"Ang aking dalawang concern, ang unang una, yung pag-imprenta ng resibo. Papaano ito makakaapekto sa proseso ng pagboto? Pangalawa, ako rin ay nababahala sa klima. Mainit."

[Translation: My two concerns are: First, the printing of receipts and how it will affect the voting process. Second, I am worried about the intense heat.]

It's the final week before election day (May 9). The Comelec has been through a lot getting to this point: glitches in the automation software, a Supreme Court order to print receipts, which meant last-minute changes in preparations, and a still pending certification for the system.

Bautista said everything is now falling into place.

"Kung ihahambing natin yung paghahanda nung 2010 at 2013 sa 2016, masasabi kong mas handa ang Comelec ngayon para sa ating halalan."

[Translation: If we compare the preparations last 2010 and 2013 to the preparations for the 2016 elections, I can say that the Comelec is more prepared for this year's elections.]

After the tests, the inspectors put everything back in their boxes and reseal them for safekeeping until next Monday morning — the day of the polls.