Computer study shows not enough time to accommodate all voters per precinct

Computer study shows not enough time to accommodate all voters per precinct
Kontra Daya

A convener of the anti-fraud and election monitoring group Kontra Daya, using computer simulation, has come up with a study showing that there may not be enough time to accommodate all voters for every clustered precinct during the May 2010 elections, the first automated elections in the country’s history.

Prof. Giovanni Tapang, of the National Institute of Physics at the University of the Philippines, simulated a queue of voters using SimPy (Simulation in Python), a programming language package, basing the steps on what a voter and the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) should do according to the General Instructions that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) recently issued.

There are more than 50.7 million registered voters for the upcoming elections, with voters from more than 329,000 precincts expected to line up at 76,000 clustered precincts. There will be one precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine and three BEI members for an average of 1,000 voters at every clustered precinct.

“The whole voting process will take 11 hours,” Tapang said. “The simulation shows that the minimum rate of arrival should be at least 95 voters per hour to reach 1,000 by 6 p.m.”

Upon arriving at the polling area, the first thing a voter should do is to look up his name and sequence number.

“A voter should take no longer than 15 minutes to search for his name out of a long list,” Tapang said. “If he takes longer than this, chances are that the queue will pile up and not everyone will be able to vote.”

If he manages to find his name and sequence number, the voter has to approach the BEI and the support staff to have his identity verified – a process that should take 2.6 minutes at the most in ideal conditions – and, after successful verification, will be directed to the BEI chairperson to be given his ballot. The BEI chairperson is the only person who can issue the ballot. If he is busy, the voter has to wait.

Tapang’s simulation shows that the BEI chairperson has a maximum period of 40 seconds to verify from the voter’s finger that he has not cast his vote yet, give him the ballot, instruct him on how to fill it up, give him a folder and have him sign several times. “If the whole procedure takes longer than that, the number of voters unable to vote beyond 6 p.m. drastically increases,” Tapang said.

Meanwhile, the voter should take up no longer than 10 minutes to fill up his ballot. He will, however, still have to wait for the PCOS machine to be free for the ballot-reading. He has to insert his ballot into the PCOS machine within 40 seconds, after which he has to return to the BEI to have his finger marked and to return the folder. This process should not go beyond 2.75 minutes.

“Applying these thresholds all at the same time and running the simulation, we get results showing that more than half of the 1,000 voters lining up at the clustered precinct will not be able to finish by 6 p.m.,” Tapang said.

“And this simulation does not even include bathroom and lunch breaks for any of the BEI members. Neither does it include any untoward incidents, challenges, and breakdown of electronic systems,” he added.

Clearly, Tapang said, the figures point to a very high likelihood of massive voter disenfranchisement come May 10.

During the mock elections held last February 6 in New Era Elementary School, it took some 2 hours for 50 voters to cast their ballots.

Kontra Daya was informed by the Comelec that under the election rules, people can still vote even after 6pm provided they are within the permiter of the precint or if they are still in line and have their names listed.

The election watchodg has repeatedly called on Comelec to undertake more mock elections to test the workability of the system and to familiarize both voters and BEI’s with the election process using actual election day conditions.

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.