As COVID-19 still persists in the Philippines, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) is considering to only allow one voter at a time in each polling precinct on May 9, 2022.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez disclosed this during the forum organized by the House Committee on People’s Participation Tuesday, July 13.
He quickly clarified this as just one of the “range of possibilities” that the poll body is exploring to ensure a safe conduct of the 2022 national and local elections.
“This is the most extreme option being discussed,” Jimenez said.
“There will be a lot of room to amend this position, but in general the idea will be to limit the number of people inside the polling place at any one time to those who are absolutely required to be there,” he added.
Unlike the previous elections where at least 10 voters are allowed inside polling centers, Jimenez said they would only allow one.
The total number of people in voting precincts might be limited to just five, he said. Three would be of the electoral board, while only one watcher will be allowed.
“‘Yong dating 10 voters at a time, that’s likely not possible anymore,” he said.
Jimenez, however, acknowledged that the “one voter at a time” scenario also poses challenges not only for the Comelec but also for voter educators and civil society groups.
Due to the reduced capacity in polling precincts, casting of votes might take longer, he said, noting the voters have to decide on 34 positions contested by at least 20,000 candidates.
“The pressure will be on the voter to make up their mind, quickly enough that it doesn’t bog the whole process down,” Jimenez said.
The Comelec earlier said it would extend voting hours, since it is “highly unlikely” to implement a multi-day elections due to restrictions in existing laws and security concerns.
Aside from reducing capacity, the poll official said the Comelec will also be implementing “subtantial” control measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
This includes setting up isolation polling places (IPPs), where voters who would fail health screenings will be placed to cast their votes. This has been rolled out and proven successful during the Palawan plebiscite last March, Jimenez said.
“This way, they will be able to exercise their right of suffrage, because obviously having COVID-19 is not disqualifying, but at the same time, the rest of the voters will be kept safe. If there is an infection, then it can be contained in the isolation place,” he said during the forum.