ELECTIONS 2022: Almost 2,000 VCMs reported malfunctioning on election day

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Poll workers and candidate representatives check the serial number of a vote counting machine (VCM) at a polling station during preparations ahead of the May 9 presidential election, in Manila City on May 4, 2022. (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)
Poll workers and candidate representatives check the serial number of a vote counting machine (VCM) at a polling station during preparations ahead of the May 9 presidential election, in Manila City on May 4, 2022. (Photo by TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

More than a thousand vote-counting machines (VCMs) have encountered "common issues" at the start of election day, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said.

In a COMELEC update on Monday (May 9) at 10:27 am, Commissioner George Garcia said 940 machines were jammed, 606 VCMs rejected ballots, 158 had problems with the scanners, 87 of the machines were not printing, and 76 VCMs had malfunctioning printers.

Of around 1900 problematic machines, only 10 have been reportedly replaced. Technicians on-site were deployed to attend to the problems of the machines, Garcia said.

Election watchdog Kontra Daya noted that the VCM breakdown in 2022 is almost double from the past elections, with 1800 reported malfunctioning machines compared to 961 and 801 in 2019 and 2016, respectively.

“Kontra Daya fears this may lead to disenfranchisement,” the group said in a statement.

As of 11 am, a total of 51 VCMs were defective and 102 SD cards have been replaced, according to the poll body.

Some voters have expressed frustration on social media because the machines in their respective precincts were not working.

The voting period began at 6 am and voters will run until 7 pm. However, people who are still in line past 7 pm will still be allowed to vote.

If the machine at the voters’ precincts is malfunctioning, voters can either wait for the technicians to finish troubleshooting the machines or they can leave their ballots with the electoral board, who will then conduct a batch feeding of the ballots once the machines start working again.

"You can vote and watchers can watch your pile of voted ballots until they are fed to a VCM. Don't worry. Just vote," former COMELEC Commissioner Rowena Guanzon said.

However, some have expressed concern about leaving their ballots to officers as it may cause electoral fraud.

A netizen from Cainta, Rizal said that the machine in their precinct was not working and an officer offered to feed their ballots to the machine later. However, people refused and waited for almost an hour for the VCM to work again.

Commissioner Garcia has explained that they have ‘no choice’ but to maintain the 10 persons per precinct limit and the voters who are already done shading their ballots should leave the polling place even if their ballots were not yet fed into the VCMs.

Meanwhile, the Legal Network for Truthful Elections (LENTE) said that it is up to the voters to wait for the machine to function, or leave it to the Electoral Board.

Furthermore, Kontra Daya said that the election officer’s statement was unacceptable, citing voters’ right to check if their votes were counted.

"Garcia's statement that voters have no choice but to leave their ballots in cases of VCM breakdown is unacceptable," Kontra Daya said in a statement posted on Facebook.

(Additional information in the fourth and fifth paragraphs included).

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom.

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