I just finished voting in San Pablo City and I have to be in QC in 2 hours. Here goes a brief account of my May 10, 2010 experience:
1. Queues. Someone was right in advising voters to lengthen their patience because of the several lines one has to fall in. Another advice I would have appreciated, though, would be to go to your precinct AS EARLY AS POSSIBLE. I arrived there 9:30 a.m. and found my precinct 10:00 a.m., expecting it would take only 30 to 45 minutes to vote. To my extreme dismay, I was already 405th in the queue (they were calling #120 after I got my number). Although many “numbers” did not appear when called, it barely sped up my waiting time. I have a very important meeting/group work this afternoon (in QC) so you can only imagine the frustration and regret I felt.
2. Automation and casting your vote. It was a pleasant surprise to find out that it was the voter himself/herself who would feed his/her ballot into the PCOS machine. I thought the votes would be counted after the day, after all ballots have been collected, which made me skeptical about the whole “automation.” (I.e. it was counting, NOT VOTING, that was automated. Not to mention it would only take a bad element to get hold of a pile of ballots, shade them accordingly and feed them into the machine before the counts were transmitted for consolidation. Good thing this was not the case.). With the voter feeding his/her ballot himself, it’s as good as having ATM-like machines where votes would be cast by pressing the button beside a name, which I initially imagined when I first heard about the automation.
So the PCOS machine is a genuine milestone, I thought. Problem was, they were underutilized. I just searched the net now and found out the school had 3,358 voters divided into 27 precincts, which were grouped into 4 clusters. Six to seven precincts = one cluster = one room = one PCOS machine. The problem was not with the number of PCOS machines but with the number of voters who can fill up their ballots simultaneously. The machine was idle for most of the time and it takes less than a minute for it to validate and count the votes in a ballot. If only more voters could fill up their ballots at the same time — more than the ten seats allotted per classroom — it would have been faster.
The Precinct Count Optical Scan machine (i.e., PCOS)
3. Privileges. Although I was growing impatient, seeing Senior Citizens go past my line relieved me. They were happy to vote without the hassle of lining up and I was happy seeing them enjoy their privilege. However, there might be other people who need the same privilege, like pregnant women and the differently-abled. Maybe next time Comelec could reconsider.
4. Para-paraan. I needed to be in QC before 4 pm; San Pablo City is 3 hours away. At the rate it was going, I would be able to vote at around 2 pm. Thanks to my mom, I was able to vote before noon. She found a Senior Citizen (Lola E, whom I’ve just met a while ago), and asked her if I could be the one to assist her (telling her my situation). Lola had a chaperon who hasn’t voted yet too, but the chaperon had a number, and she and Lola agreed to my mother’s proposition. I assisted Lola E, and after her, I voted. Later on, I found out that the chaperon was also done voting, and in fact finished ahead of me, as her number was called even before Lola E was done voting. I sighed, greatly relieved I did not trouble anyone specific with my mother’s pamamaraan and glad that I would be able to make it to my meeting in QC. (Thanks, Ma!)
Overall assessment: Voting is taking much longer than usual, but given that the election process is in a transition, it’s satisfactory. This election entails more patience from the voters, or their strengthened will to exercise their right and/or fulfill their obligation as citizens. Lubhang nakakapagod pumila.
Points for improvement: More clusters/classrooms, definitely, with corresponding increase in manpower. If not possible, then the BEI or whoever is in-charge of the logistics can at least consider having more seats/slots in each classroom to accommodate more voters who can vote simultaneously.
(AND) Find a way to accommodate errors in filling up ballots. The Lola I assisted made a mistake in filling up the first part of her ballot, but she was not allowed to have another one so she was not able to correct her vote. In effect she voted for a President she did not really want to vote for. Voters should be held responsible for the accuracy of their vote, true, but not at the expense of compromising the faithfulness of a cast vote to the voter’s true choice.