Comelec must assure us that no voter is ‘left behind’

Published April 27, 2022, 12:03 AM

by Manila Bulletin

In another heated election cycle as this one, every vote counts. So it was only natural for those who are anticipating to vote on May 9, 2022 to check their names and corresponding precincts when the Commission on Elections (Comelec) unveiled the “Precinct Finder” online last April 22, which is accessible via this website, www.voterverifier.comelec.gov.ph.

Through the use of technology, registered voters may now easily check the location of their polling precinct days before the election. They don’t have to worry where to go or even line up at the wrong polling station as the website gives you the relevant information.

The Precinct Finder is also user-friendly — just input your name, the place (province or city/ municipality) where you registered, and the results will reveal where you should go on election day if you are an “Active” voter.  Active here means that you have voted in past elections or a newly registered voter of your place. On the other hand, if the result turns out “Inactive” or “No Record Found,” then either you were not exercising your right to vote in past election cycles or you have not registered as a voter at all.

Though this is not the first time that a feature like this was introduced by Comelec, this year’s Precinct Finder promises to be more seamless, secured, and accessible to all. The Precinct Finder’s “good intentions,” however, is not enough as various groups and concerned citizens have raised the possibility of a voters’ disenfranchisement, specifically due to this website. For example, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal early this week said that a “massive disenfranchisement might occur from the issue of missing records of voters in the Precinct Finder.”

“We call upon the Comelec to immediately verify and investigate this matter and advise the electorate on why this is happening. What is now the assurance of the public that they could still vote despite this seeming confusion brought about by this Precinct Finder system and how accurate the information it gives to the electorate,” he said.

Macalintal based his concerns on various reports revealing that a lot of voters have not received any confirmation from the Comelec regarding the status of their voting records and as to whether or not their application for registration has been approved. He also shared that some voters complained that the results of their voting status through the Precinct Finder revealed “not found,” “under review,” or “for review” until now. Some have received a reply that their registration had been “deactivated” despite the fact that they have consistently voted in the past elections. According to the law, a voter’s registration will only be deactivated if said voter fails to vote in two consecutive elections. But despite having voted during the last elections, Macalintal claimed that some voters still received a “Deactivated” reply from the Precinct Finder.

These issues regarding the Precinct Finder raise some valid concerns, especially now that we are 12 days away from the elections. What happens if a large number of voters couldn’t confirm if they are eligible to vote?  What should one do if one could prove that he or she has voted in the recent elections and should not be “deactivated?” What happens if the website shows that you are an overseas voter even though you are already in the country? The Comelec should prepare for answers ASAP.

While the intention of the Comelec’s Precinct Finder is commendable as it makes it convenient for voters, what the country needs now is some form of assurance that all those who have registered to vote — and who want to exercise this right — can indeed vote on May 9.  Disenfranchising even a small number of voters could have a negative impact on the credibility of the elections and could snowball into a disaster that affects our ability to trust governmental institutions.

 
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