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Comelec to allow voters to ask for extra ballot on Election Day

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) will allow voters to have an extra ballots if the initial ballots given to them are rejected by the vote counting machines (VCMs) on May 9.

According to the amended General Instructions (GI) for Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), the commission en banc can secure a replacement ballot from the teachers provided that the ballot rejection is not the fault of the voters.

“No replacement ballot shall be issued to a voter, whose ballot is rejected by the VCM, except if the rejection of the ballot is not due to the fault of the voter,” Comelec Resolution No. 10088 said.

Under the amended GI, in case of ballot rejection, the BEI shall still allow the voter to re-feed the ballot four times in four different orientations. After fourth try and the ballot is still rejected, the voter shall return the ballot to the BEI.

In the 2010 and 2013 polls, voters were not allowed to ask for replacement ballots.

For his part, Comelec Chairman Juan Andres Bautista said the decision was reached on the idea that voters should not be disenfranchised if it is not their fault their ballot has been rejected.

“We believe that we should not penalize the voters if it is not their fault. We opted to err on the side of right to suffrage,” he said in a media forum Wednesday in Manila.

On the other hand, former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal did not support the decision, noting that it might pose problems on Election Day such as shortage of ballots.

“The problem here is if you have 800 voters and 700 voters appear, then 120 voters ask for replacement ballots, at the end of the day, the BEI can only say ‘sorry we ran out of ballots’. What will happen? Disenfranchised voters also,” he said.

The poll body chief is confident that they will have spare ballots since traditionally they have no record of 100 percent voter turnout.

The Comelec had already completed the printing of all the 56,772,230 ballots to be used in the May 9 national and local polls using the 1:1 voter-ballot ratio.

Meanwhile, an official of Smartmatic International said the company was ready to donate the 1.1 million thermal paper rolls set to be used as voter receipts.

According Smartmatic International Voter’s Education Chief Atty. Karen Jimeno they will donate the paper rolls.

"Smartmatic has internally decided to donate 1.1 million rolls of thermal papers that would meet all the requirements for the issuance of the voter receipts and that would also address the problems of the very burdensome requirements of the Government Procurement Act,” she added.

Last April 5, Smartmatic lost to Forms International Enterprises Corporation, which was declared as having the Lowest Calculated Bid (LCB) by the Comelec – Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

Bautista said that they would still have to evaluate the offer of supplier of the VCMs.

“We received a letter from Smartmatic offering to provide all the thermal papers for the voting receipts. They did so because they are afraid that the thermal papers might not be delivered on time for the elections. That was taken up during the en banc meeting but there were certain members who wanted to find out if this is proper. That is our present dilemma,” he added. (by Ferdinand G. Patinio, PNA)

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