Illustration by Fritzie  Marie C. Amar

SO NEAR, and yet so far.

As the days before “E-day” slowly run out, so do the chances of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to prove to the public that the first automated elections will be a success.

Months before the elections, the public continues to be bombarded with bad news hinting of problems of the automated “ballot box”— fluctuating signals, ballots becoming invalid, the presence of signal jammers near the precincts (which will allegedly affect the transmission of election returns), not to mention the problem of overcrowding, with as much as 1,000 people expected in a precinct. All this and more would probably make voting an arduous task.

But the more pressing concern is a possible “failure of elections,” and the emergence of an “electronic Garci.” Even the presidential candidates seem to agree on this outlook, and they have all the reason to do so. All the other inconveniences can be overlooked, but electing a candidate to the highest post through dubious means is a different matter.

Automation should be a good thing, as it aims to lessen the problems encountered in previous elections. The public should watch how automation deals with cheating. The Comelec has assured us time and again that the ballot box’s server would be near impossible to be hacked, as it is protected by layers of passwords and electronic security. Apart from that, the printing of the hard copy of election returns would be instantaneous, leaving little time for anyone to pull off something as complicated as hacking into the system and tampering with the votes. A recount will also be conducted after the elections to cover all bases.

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The Comelec, meanwhile, attests that a significant number of the automated counting machines might not work or malfunction during the elections. However, the ballots will still be inside and can be tallied manually, closing the doors to a possible failure of elections.

All that is left now is to disseminate information to voters about all that is needed to know about voting in an automated election, especially what not to do with their finicky ballot lest they make their votes invalid. This huge responsibility lies on the hands of the Comelec, as well as the media and other private organizations. What the voters can do, on their part, is to be active rather than passive, and to prepare their list of candidates beforehand so as to chop the time it takes to vote.

Amid these foreseen problems with logistics and others, vigilance is still the price to pay for a genuine change in leadership.

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