The recent Philippine elections provides an excellent case study on how the proper use of technology can drastically improve the plight of poll workers, long acknowledged as the unsung heroes of elections.
Due to the speed with which election results from precincts were counted and transmitted to the consolidation servers during the country’s midterm elections of May 2019, proclamations for local positions were over in matter of hours. This allowed most poll workers to be safely back at home before midnight of election night.
Since the Philippines began automating vote counting in 2010, poll workers have not only enjoyed shorter working hours but with the system cutting down human intervention to the barest minimum, their exposure to violence and coercion was also greatly reduced.
Automation in the Philippine has already reaped praises from many sectors for fostering the safety and well-being of poll workers. Before the advent of election automation, Philippine poll workers counted and tallied the votes manually, a painstaking process that often took as long as 40 days to finish, and which left the workers extremely vulnerable to intimidation from armed personnel in the payroll of politicians.
This triumph of technology in Philippine elections throws into sharp focus the imperative to address the plight of poll workers elsewhere in the world. In Indonesia, for example, more than 270 poll workers died due to exhaustion brought about by endless hours of counting in the last elections. Such a tragedy could have been easily prevented by poll automation.
With the ready availability of technology that works, it behooves election management bodies around the world to act swiftly to improve the welfare of their poll workers.