The Philippines to expand its election automated platform


In 2010, the Philippines became the first Asian country to outsource the implementation of a National Election. Four years later, authorities are looking to further embrace technology by calling for bidding processes to select electoral technology and services providers.

Recently, the Philippine Commission on Elections (COMELEC) decided to acquire 23,000 new Optical Mark Reader (OMR) machines to process manually filled ballots in the 2016 General Elections. The OMR machines would add to the existing 82,200 Precinct-based Counting Optical Scanners (PCOS) purchased by the elections commission that were used both with great success in 2010 and 2013.

Authorities are expecting to award this new P2.5 billion contract in February 2015. To such purpose, they have devised a two-stage bidding process. Initially, five firms had shown interest, yet only Indra Sistemas and Smartmatic-TIM formally submitted proposals. On Monday, December 15, both were declared eligible to participate in the second round.

Although the Spanish-based company has not participated in any of the recent elections in this Asian archipelago, it does have some bidding experience for such projects. In 2009, Indra’s bid to provide the technology for the 2010 General Elections was 35% higher than the approved budget, a main reason for its disqualification. The firm’s largest stakeholder is the Spanish government, through Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industriales (S.E.P.I.) – with 20.14%. Its focus on defense and surveillance technology has sparked controversy in the country, as it is viewed by some as a sort of Conquistador 2.0.

Smartmatic has already participated in previous Filipino elections. During the 2010 General Elections and the 2013 Midterm Elections, the company provided technology and services. Although the elections were hailed as a success by authorities and some observation missions, they’ve been surrounded by controversies. From afar, it is hard to distinguish the facts from the fiction in a country so prone to astroturf organizations, which anonymously spread rumors and fake allegations.

Also, looking ahead, authorities are considering on a Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) voting machine to be tested. Up until now, the voting method has stayed manual, leaving the bulk of the technology only to handle the processes of counting, transmitting and consolidating results. Smartmatic and Scytl were the two companies bidding for full automation, but Scytl was unanimously declared ineligible by the Comelec Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), due to deficiencies in its eligibility documents and initial technical proposal.

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2013, a year for the strengthening of e-voting


votoElectoral technology keeps strengthening its presence, and 2013 is proof of how civil and political commitment has allowed different nations to preserve their right to suffrage, not only with the execution of elections, but also by agreeing to modernize their systems or delivering clean processes that guarantee real, timely results.

This year, nations such as Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama decided to advance and approve the execution of pilot tests or partial elections to show the effectiveness of electoral automation, while Venezuela and the Philippines confirmed their superiority in the use of electoral technology.

Peru

Peru is one of the most committed Latin American nations in providing its voters with an electoral model capable of legitimately reflecting the people’s intent. To that end, it conducted the fourth implementation of an e-voting designed by the National Office for Electoral Processes (ONPE). The Santa María del Mar district elected its 22 provincial aldermen with a system based on the use of a ballot that activates the options (candidates) to be selected through a touchscreen. Voters press their preferred option, the system processes it and stores each vote, and the process ends with the emission of a printed vote receipt showing the selection. The experience will be reprised in Lima in 2014.

Venezuela

Venezuelans held two national elections during 2013. Both the April presidential elections and the December municipals had technology provided by Smartmatic. The presidential elections were organized in only 34 days—due to the early demise of President Hugo Chávez—. The municipal elections, held in December, entailed organizing an election to renew 2,792 posts, with over 16 thousand candidates. From voter authentication through fingerprint scan, to the voting and results publication, every step was automated.

Panama, Ecuador, and Colombia

In 2013, these three nations decided to conduct e-voting pilot test in 2014 so that they can open up the path to automate their elections in the near future. Both Colombia (in January) and Ecuador (in February) opted to test out various diverse technologies simultaneously in order to study the performance of the systems available in the market. Two of them are the PCOS (precinct count optical scan) system, which enables scanning paper ballots for an automated scrutiny, and the DRE (direct recording electronic) system, which comprises touchscreen devices that enable voting, storing votes, aggregating them, and transmitting them to a data center. Panama decided to conduct a small demonstration in one constituency to show the effectiveness of this technology.

Philippines

Last May, the Philippine archipelago used e-voting again to great success. The robust voting technology used, which was acquired from the multinational Smartmatic, allowed Filipinos to cast 766 million votes in then hours. This election represented the second national election in which automation allowed for fast and transparent results.

Finally, it is worth highlighting that Honduras, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Paraguay are working hard to modify their electoral laws in order to overcome manual voting and to automate their elections. The road is long, but at least they have already started the journey.