Central Comelec: New electronic voting site ‘secure’

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THE UST Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) has assured Thomasians of a secured voting system amid the return to electronic voting in this year’s Central Student Council (CSC) Executive Board elections.

In a news conference on Friday, Comelec said the electronic voting system programmed by the UST Computer Science Society will use the University’s Internet connection to prevent hackers from infiltrating the site.

Comelec opted for a new server provider and programmer after a glitch in the electronic elections in the 2016 student polls delayed the announcement of winners. Manual elections were held in 2017.

Arvin Bersonda, Comelec chairman, said booths would be set up during the mandatory debate on April 3 for Thomasians to try the new electronic voting website before the elections.

‘Unanswered’ not counted

The poll body also clarified changes to the electronic ballot.

Students can choose not to vote for anyone in any position, in which case the vote will be considered “unanswered.”

Unanswered votes will not be tallied, said Ivan Pulanco, Comelec secretary.

“[Leaving the position unanswered] is as if the voter did not vote at all. [W]e will not be using the unanswered votes as a means to judge the winner because the issue here was the vagueness of the [election code] with regards to the unanswered vote,” Pulanco said.

But the Comelec will declare a failure of elections if the voter turnout is less than 25 percent, based on the UST Students’ Elections Code (USEC) of 2011.

“In a hypothetical scenario between two candidates at 40,000 registered voters, [if] Candidate A received 4,000 votes and Candidate B received 5,000 votes and 31,000 voters left the vote blank or didn’t show up, we will declare a failure of election not because of the unanswered and no-show voters getting a plurality or relative majority, but because of an extraordinarily low turnout of less than 25 percent,” he explained.

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“But say we have 15,000 votes for Candidate A and 5,000 votes for Candidate B and 20,000 did not answer or did not show up, then we have a [turnout] of 50 percent, so candidate A wins the position,” he said.

“The 25-percent limit and total number of registered voters will be published before the elections. We recognize the very high threshold to reach a failure of election. We recognize the desire of many for a protest vote or other similar options but this is the only policy we can implement based on the existing laws,” Pulanco added.

The option to vote for “Abstain” was removed by the commission from choices in the ballot this year to comply with the order of the Central Judiciary Board, which said the poll body violated the 2011 election code by including “Abstain” on the 2017 ballot, which resulted in overwhelming abstentions in four out of six positions in the CSC Executive Board.

Pulanco said the Comelec adviser, lawyer Alfonso Versoza, said a voter who left a position blank was the same as one who was absent during the elections.

Sole grad school bet for treasurer disqualified

The Comelec on Friday disqualified one out of 11 CSC candidates for failing to meet the required academic units.

Graduate School student Rome Voltaire Gomez was disqualified to run as CSC treasurer because he did not meet the 15-unit requirement set by the election code.

“It’s just sad that my disqualification means that no regular Graduate School student can file for candidacy up until the [amendment] of the CSC Constitution [and the] USEC,” Gomez told the Varsitarian.

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The election code states that a candidate vying for a council post should be enrolled for at least 15 units as certified by their respective faculties, colleges or schools.

In the Graduate School Student Handbook, however, regular students are allowed to enroll up to 12 units for a semester. Only students under a scholarship program are allowed to enroll 18 units while graduating students can enroll up to 15 units.

This year’s campaign period will be from April 3 to 17.

Regular elections will run from April 11 to 21, and the proclamation of the new CSC officers will be on April 21. Ma. Angela Christa Coloma and Julia Claire L. Medina

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