Comelec foresees possible dip in registered voters; prepares measures for COVID-safe polls in May 2022

With the COVID-19 pandemic, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is not discounting the possibility of having fewer registered voters in the May 2022 National and Local polls.

Residents of Manila fill up voters forms in the first day of voter registration at Comelec office in Arroceros, Manila. (Photo by Jansen Romero / FILE PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

"From 61 million in 2019 we deactivated 3 million voters for failing to vote twice. That brought us down to around 59 million in terms of registered voters," Comelec Spokesman James Jimenez said in a virtual town hall discussion on Tuesday. 

"But with 4 million potential registrants and expected a million reactivation, we project that we will have from anywhere around 62 million to 63 million voters in 2022," he added.

"With the pandemic, this is looking more and more like a radical projection and we might not even get to 61 million with the way things are going," said Jimenez.

It was back in September 1, 2020 when voter registration activities resumed nationwide, except in areas under Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) or Modified ECQ. 

And since they still expect this kind of situation to still persist in 2022, Jimenez said they are looking to "retool" their election preparations to make it COVID safe.

He mentioned the filing of certificate of candidacy and campaigning as some of them.

"COC filing has to be retooled and re-imagine in very significant ways," said Jimenez.

"Campaigning is going to be a potential superspreader. The way we do campaigning here in the Philippines always involved huge crowd, huge motorcade, huge pictures of people standing shoulder to shoulder, breathing in each others faces to say the least," he added.

Jimenez said one of the big things that’s actually going to have to be re-envisioned is how to manage the crowd at precincts inside the polling places.

"There are a lot of COVID-19 vulnerabilities here apart from standing close to each other, the fact that it is a little difficult filling up ballots with small egg shape wearing mask, face shield …….  its also likely to be very hot in these polling places ….  not well ventilated and air can stagnate inside. People are touching things and that’s actually a very hospitable place for COVID transmission," he said.

"So, polling places are one of the biggest flash points in terms of making the elections COVID safe," added Jimenez.

According to the poll official, there is already a committee in Comelec looking at all of these to determine how they can reengineer, redesign these processes to make them more COVID safe.