Voters demand election commission #ExtendVotingHoursPH after faulty vote-counting machines plague polling precincts

·4 min read

Many Filipinos demanded that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) extend voting hours after widespread reports of voters waiting in line up for hours on election day due to malfunctioning vote-counting machines across polling stations in the Philippines. The sentiment was widespread enough to make #ExtendVotingHoursPH a top trending topic on Twitter this evening.

Under Comelec guidelines, voting was meant to begin today at 6am and end at 7pm. Only voters within 30 meters of polling stations were supposed to be allowed to vote after the 7pm cutoff.

Yet on Twitter, many Filipinos shared their experiences of waiting as long as 12 hours due to a lack of working vote-counting machines, with no updates from Comelec as of 9:30 pm.

One voter said there were no working machines in their precinct at all from 6am to 7pm, giving nobody the opportunity to vote under Comelec’s time guidelines.

Earlier, Comelec suggested that voters experiencing faulty machines in their precincts leave their ballots with electoral board members, who would feed the ballots into the machines in their absence — waiving their right to view the voting receipt that would confirm their votes.

This obviously did not sit well with many of those voters, who argued that this would leave their ballots prone to tampering and insisted on waiting until working machines had arrived to cast their ballots.

ABS-CBN news anchor Karen Davila questioned a Comelec commissioner on what circumstances would force the poll-regulating body to declare an extension of voting hours after the long delays.

“What would it take for the Comelec en banc to decide to extend voting hours?” Davila asked Commissioner George Garcia during a live interview in Filipino. “(People) are only asking for two more hours. Several candidates have made the call to extend the polling. And mind you commissioner, the pandemic is not to blame for the long queues — it is the VCM (vote-counting machines). People have been standing in line for four hours. How is that the fault of the people or the pandemic?”

Comelec has not extended voting hours as of the time of writing.

Election watchdog Kontra Daya (Combat Cheating) said that the breakdown of vote-counting machines this year was much worse compared to the 2019 and 2016 elections at 1,800 versus 961 and 801, respectively.

The watchdog blamed the refurbished Smartmatic machines, which have been in use since the 2010 presidential elections, for the disenfranchisement of as many as 1 million voters today. A PHP637-million contract (US$12.09 million) was awarded to refurbish old machines instead of purchasing new ones.

Kontra Daya also noted that there were fewer backup machines on standby this year at 2,000 compared to 7,000 in 2019. The controversial F2 Logistics, the company in charge of distributing the ballots and voting machines, is owned by Dennis Uy, a Davao-based businessman with known ties to President Duterte and was one of his biggest donors in the 2016 presidential elections.

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