As May 10 draws near and our list of names for national and local positions is filled up, it’s time to take stock of the other things we need to remember about voting this year. Because this year is special as it’s the first year that we are having automated elections that requires us to fill out new ballots and feed it to a machine that will read our votes. This may sound hi-tech, but there’s still much to prepare for here. In fact, the things we take for granted might spell the difference between making our votes count, and getting a void ballot.
So here’s FN’s guide to automated voting, in the hopes of making the voting experience as painless as possible on Election Day. And while, even at this late hour, there have been issues with the automated election system (AES), Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal told GMA News that these have already been resolved, so it looks like it's all systems go for the new system.
BEFORE ELECTION DAY
1. Find your precinct.
It’s best to know where you need to go beforehand. And to make things less stressful, find the precincts of the rest of your household. Usually people in one household are assigned to the same precincts, but sometimes this isn’t the case. You can go the Comelec website, click on the precinct search, and type in the required information, i.e., your name and your birthday. Believe me it will all be worth it when you won’t have to fall in line to look for your names on a list on Election Day.
2. Familiarize yourself with the ballot.
Because this is the first time that we’re using a ballot such as this, no one can tell us what it will be like on Election Day. It will be smart to look at the sample ballot at the Comelec website, and make sure that we aren’t too surprised by the way it looks. After all it is a long ballot filled with names and numbers, and it’s easy to get lost in it. You might want to practice filling in those oval spaces properly with a black pen. Remember too, that your local election ballot is at the back of the national election one.
3. Finalize your list of candidates.
This means not just writing their names, but also their corresponding numbers. This is the one election where numbers matter most because the ballot is so long and filled with names, it’s easy to be confused. Having those numbers alongside the names will lessen the confusion. This is particularly true for partylist organizations, what with names that seem the same. Instead of thinking twice right there and then, decide on a partylist and remember its number beforehand.
4. Remember that the positions you’re voting for are for both national and local governments.
This means reading up on FN’s guides to choosing your president and vice president, as well as your 12 senators. Locally, you’re voting for your mayor, vice mayor, six councilors, a city representative or congressman or woman, and, where it applies, a governor and vice governor. Again, make those choices beforehand, and remember their numbers.
5. Realize that another national position is up for grabs: the partylist representative.
It has been prove of course that many of these partylist organizations are actually fake marginalized sectors, and it’s imperative that some research be done on the partylist you want to vote for. The ones that have a track record to show are Kabataan Partylist (#152), Gabriela Women’s Partylist (#147), Bayan Muna Partylist (#122), Anakpawis Partylist (#87), while those that do have a broad organization under them are ACT Teachers Partylist (#39), Katribu Partylist (#158).
ON ELECTION DAY
1. Come early, and know where to go.
Wake up early and vote first thing in the morning, or wait to do it later in the day. Choosing the middle of the day to go to your precinct will necessarily mean longer lines and bigger crowds. But then again if you have your precinct number and valid ID with you, you’re 10 steps ahead of the crowd.
2. Make sure to bring your list of candidates and their numbers.
You don’t want to hold up the line by being indecisive at that moment you’re faced with the names, so make sure you have the list of your preferred candidates handy. There will necessarily be a line to vote, no matter how short, given the truth of margin of error because it is the first time we’re doing this.
3. Be careful not to make mistakes on your ballot.
You will be given only one ballot for voting, so you cannot make mistakes. When you receive your ballot, make sure its bar code is clear; otherwise, it won’t be received by the machine. Realize that this ballot is ultra sensitive to extra marks or blotches, and that everything from going beyond the oval you’re supposed to shade to wetting the ballot with your sweat will make it invalid. Take a handkerchief with you and be careful not to put any marks on the ballot; be conscious as well of folding or crumpling your ballot in any way. All these would put your ballot in danger of being rejected by the machine. If that happens, you won’t be given another ballot, and your vote will go to waste.
4. Shade those ovals properly.
Filling it only in the middle or extending way beyond its edge will mean an invalidated ballot. Think coloring books, and how things don’t look pretty when they’re under- or over- colored. Make sure to fill in the whole circle and make sure your shading isn't too light for the machine to read.
5. Keep track of your numbers.
Vote for the right number of people for each position. Make sure to count only 12 senators, 6 councilors, and 1 each for every other position, both national and local. Going over will mean no votes counted.
6. Wait while your ballot is fed into the PCOS machine.
In the end, what you need to be is relaxed as you go and vote on May 10. One way to do that is to know as much about the elections as possible, from the process to key acronyms like AES, BEI, etc. A lot of things depend on who wins in this election, and there’s no reason to be afraid. When there’s something irregular about your experience, don’t be afraid to report this to the non-partisan volunteers guarding the precincts on Election Day. When you get home, you can also report strange or unexpected experiences with automated voting to online, televised, and radio monitoring teams. The right to vote is given us by our democracy, but the power of our vote lies in who we vote for, so choose well and wisely, but more importantly choose relevantly.
Still not sure about how to go about things? Watch the informational video below, which will give you a run-through of the upcoming elections.