... straddling the thin line between genius and insanity ...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Philippine Automated Election System for May 2010

Yesterday, I attended a private demonstration of the Automated Election System(AES) for the May 2010 election. The event was organized by The Asia Foundation in cooperation with Smartmatic.

Voters Perspective

The AES at its core is still a paper-based election which is not that different from the previous national elections. The paper ballot, which in past elections require voters to write the names of their chosen candidates, now only requires them to SHADE the ovals next to the names of their chosen candidates.

  • You must shade only one oval per position unless otherwise stated.
  • If you shade more than the stated number of ovals for a certain position, you ballot will NOT be counted for that particular position.
Steps to Vote:
1) Prepare your personal list of candidates to vote for before going to the voting precinct.

2) When you get to the precinct, register with the election officials and get your ballot

3) Check that the ballot is unused making sure that no ovals have been shaded

4) Sit down and proceed to shading the ovals next to the names of your chosen candidates. You will be asked to use markers with indelible ink so you can not make a mistake. You are only allotted ONE ballot so take your time.

5) When its your turn to use the voting machine, take note of the number of votes that the machine has recorded before feeding your ballot into it. Wait for the machine to confirm that your vote has been recorded. Take note that the number of votes that the machine has recorded should increase by one. If something goes wrong, bring it to the attention of election officials

I think this is as far as one needs to know with regards to voting.

The next section which I will update shortly will describe the things that SHOULD happen before voting opens and after voting opens as well as the security features of the system.

About the machine 
  • The final firmware is reviewed and certified by all concerned parties 
  • The machines are loaded with firmware in the presence of representatives from concerned parties to make sure that the firmware loaded is the one that was certified 
  • The machines are tested and sealed with 10 test ballots each.
  • The package is then sent to the precinct. It should be in the precincts on the day before the election at the latest. 
  • At the appropriate time, the election officials for each precinct will open the package together with concerned parties and test the machine using the test ballots. 
  • Each machine is configured specifically for a precinct.
  • Each machine is configured only to record and count the votes up to the number of registered voters for the particular precinct where it will be used.
  • Each machine is configured to only accept ballots for the precinct where it will be used.
  • When the election is opened, the machine will print out copies of its totals for the review of the election officials as well as other concerned parties. The print out should indicate zero votes have been counted.
  • The machine is not connected to any network during election
  • When the election is closed, the machine will print out 8 copies of the Election Returns for audit purposes. A modem is then connected which will allow the machine to transmit the election returns to pre-configured servers. After transmission, the machine is disconnected from the network and prints out 22 copies of the election returns for audit purposes by concerned parties
 About the ballots
  • Each ballot can be uniquely identified and has both visible and invisible ultraviolet prints as an additional security measure
  • Each precinct will be allocated a number of ballots exactly equal to the number of registered voters for the particular precinct
  • When the election is closed, unused ballots should be torn in half and placed inside the ballot boxes 

About data transmission
  • The machine will transmit the election returns to three servers: municipal server, comelec backup server and a server for use by the media and other concerned parties

Saturday, December 12, 2009

How to vote WISELY?

I came across a couple of blogs the other day. They are all linked to by http://www.getrealphilippines.net/. They seem to be a bunch of out of the box thinkers. Some of what they say might be painful to hear but they make sense. Reading the postings on the different blogs, I've come to realise a few things which I will rant about in this and my next posts.

Ever since I can remember, people have always asked us to vote wisely but I can't, for the life of me, remember if voting wisely was taught in elementary or high school. I remember during high school, we had student elections for the members of the student council. I remember voting for the party that had the most catchy jingle and slogan. I paid very little attention to plans or platforms. I know now that what I did was wrong. Which leads to the quesion of:

How to evaluate candidates properly?
The answer can be summarized in the following comic strip taken from one of the above mentioned blog:

They should be teaching this in high school. The students should go thru the exercise of evaluating candidates every year even if they are not yet allowed to vote. They should also be made aware of the current situations and issues, the current position of our government as well as the actions being undertaken and their status.

Maybe we can start a sustained drive for voter education aimed at high school students manned by volunteers and funded by grants and donations.

Thoughts, comments and suggestions are welcome.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Renewing my Drivers License

Day 1
I finally had enough motivation to renew my expired drivers license last last week. It's been expired since July but I couldn't find the time to renew it until the said week. I asked around what's required to renew my expired drivers license and I got the following answer:
  • Expired License card
  • Official Receipt
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour of your precious time\
  • patience to go to the one of the renewal centers scattered across the metro
After much deliberation, I decided to go to the Ayala DLRC located in the Ayala MRT station on Dec 1 2009. As fate would have it, the technician that was in charge of doing the drug test had some sort of emergency and wasn't able to report to work. So for the whole day, that DLRC won't be able to process renewals since no one can do the drug test.
I think it's just lame that the operation of one whole center is dependent on one single person. I hope they learn from this and consider some redundancy.

I was advised to go to another DLRC and I chose to proceed to the DLRC located in the Guadalupe MRT station. When I got there, the line was already long since most of the people who went to the Ayala MRT Station DLRC went there. The process required that I fill up a form and I didn't have a pen with me. The desks at the DLRC didn't have pens so I had to purchase a pen from the counter for 10 pesos.

After filling up the form, I submitted it to the window but by that time, they had to break for lunch. I had no choice but wait and I had this sinking feeling that chances are, my whole day is going to be waisted. I took my lunch at a nearby KFC outlet and returned by 1pm. After form submission, the long wait now starts for my name to be called so that I can take the drug test and medical test.

At around 2:30 pm, my name was called. The drug test is basically a urine test. The medical test involved a Snellen chart and another image to test vision. Afterwards, I was asked a couple of medical questions to determine my fitness to actually drive.

At around 3:30pm, the results of the urine test came out negative for drugs so I submitted the forms to the next window. After a few minutes, my name was called for picture taking and signature. I told myseld, FINALLY, I'm nearing the end. After a few minutes, I guy came out and called my name. He told me they couldn't process my renewal since I had pending traffic violation tickets in the MMDA database. I knew of one ticket that I had which was for a coding violation. I already paid for the ticket last October at a Metrobank branch and I brought the receipt with me. The guy told me I had to go to MMDA to clear my record. He told me to hurry "para makahabol pa". Since the MMDA building is near Guadalupe, I decided to go and try to clear my record.

I got there around 4:00pm and the line was really long and the place was packed. The person at the door told me that they won't be able to accommodate me anymore and that I should just come back in the morning on the next day.

Day 2

I woke up early, skipped breakfast and got to the MMDA building by 8:30am. When I entered, I had to fall in line to get a verification form. The guy at the door told me I had to first get a photocopy my license, official receipt and the ticket payment receipt. I asked him where to do this and he pointed me to a nearby computer rental shop. When I got there, a girl approached me and offered to facilitate the clearing of my records. I figured it was still early and I was there already so I'll just go thru the correct process. When I got back, I was given form#94.

I then had to fall in line again to pay 30 pesos for the verification service. After payment, I sat down and wait for my number to be called. At about 10:00am, my name was called and I explained to them that I already paid for my ticket and ask why it wasn't reflected in their records. The girl just shrugged and told me that my name will be called for evaluation and assessment of fines/fees. I had a feeling that this is leading to another wasted day. I patiently waited and around 11:30am, I was assessed and charged a 500 peso fine for a ticket with a reckless driving violation. I paid the fine and decided to just come back for the clearance next day since I had a meeting that afternoon.

Day 3

Again, I woke up early, skipped breakfast and picked up the clearance. From MMDA, I went directly to the DLRC in Guadalupe Station. Alas, I was to early, I got there at 8:30am and they open at 9:00am. So I waited. At 9:00am, I was able to re-submit my papers including the clearance. The girl who accepted my paper warned me that the one to take my picture and signature will arrive at 9:30am. I waited till 10:00am for my name to be called for them to take my picture and signature again. Afterwards, I was called to the cashier to pay for the fees. Finally, at 10:30am, I was able to get my license.

Lessons to be learned
  • Bring Expired License card
  • Bring Official Receipt
  • Bring a pen
  • Photocopy License, Official Receipt and Ticket Receipts