ARE MANUAL elections better than computerized voting when it comes to voter turnout?

Yes, according to Central Commission on Elections (Comelec) chair Louise Malabanan, after seeing that the turnout during the past three automated elections has been lower compared with manual voting.

Malaban said that during the last manual elections in 2008, Comelec recorded a 70 percent university-wide voter turnout, while this year, only 65 percent of the total voting population participated in the elections.

Malabanan, however, could not cite exact figures, saying that files from previous years have been misplaced.

Sought for comment, Assistant to the Rector for Student Affairs Evelyn Songco said, the results are significant enough to declare the victory of winning candidates, but that the automated electoral system is better because the manual system is too strenuous.

“It takes a longer time to cast and canvass votes in the manual elections. Some students even stay overnight to finish the process,” she said

But how come a more convenient process has proved futile in encouraging student participation in campus elections?

With 41,274 student voters in UST, only 26,622 voted in the last elections.

Among the faculties and colleges in the University, the AMV-College of Accountancy had the highest turnout of 94 percent with 3,287 voters from a population of 3,490 while the college of Fine Arts and Design has the lowest turnout of 10 percent with just 209 votes out of the expected 2,116.

A “failure of election” occurred in the Conservatory of Music as only 23 percent of the student population voted or 157 out of 671.

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A successful election requires at least 25 percent of the student population to vote, according to Central Comelec.

For Songco, one reason for the students’ indifference is that they are not interested in student politics.

“We tallied student activities and it showed that they (students) are more inclined towards contests and community service. It is not easy to get an audience for a political forum in the campus, more so, to get them to vote even when it’s already made easier for them through the automated elections,” she said.

Meanwhile, Malabanan shared similar views, citing several difficulties in administering the automated system.

“Some students and professors are not used to it yet. [And] there are still some professors who are hesitant to excuse their students from class so that they can cast their votes in computer laboratories,” she said.

Outgoing Central Student Council president Leandro Santos II said one defect of the automated process is that it would not accommodate all votes.

“For example, we only have few computer units in our computer laboratories in [the Faculty of] Arts and Letters and not everyone has the chance to vote,” he said. “Students are just given two to three days to cast their vote for the purposes of a simultaneous poll in the campus. In this system, you can only get the votes of everybody present on those days.”

Third and fourth year and irregular students find it hard to vote because they may or may not have classes on the days of elections.

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“I was not able to participate in the recent elections for we were not informed accordingly as to when we would cast our votes. Schedules were only made available to freshmen and sophomores who have daily classes,” said third year Legal Management junior Ingrid Margaret Serrano.

However, Kathreen Monje, Arts and Letters Comelec chairwoman, said the students were well-informed of the schedule.

“The Comelec marshals are merely regulating the electoral flow. The election code, which dictates the date and voting period, is strictly followed,” Monje said.

A common polling area in the Miguel de Benavides Central Library was also established to allow students to vote even outside their colleges. Malabanan said this contributed more than 200 votes on the last day of elections.

Santos urged the Comelec pursue a rigid information campaign throughout the campus.

“Students are receptive. They only do what they are asked to and what is available to them. Initiative comes in two ways but Comelec should lead by showing that they want students to participate,” he said.

Due to limited time for information campaigns, Malabanan said Comelec prioritized mandatory debates broadcasted in each college. Marnee A. Gamboa

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