What are the Plan Bs on Election Day?

Unless the world ends on May 9, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already formulated a set of measures that can be followed in polling precincts should there be any mishaps during the voting hours.

A teacher at Dona Aurora Quezon Elementary School in San Andres Malate, Manila on Wednesday, May 4, 2022, ensures that vote-counting machines (VCMs) are secured in preparation for the May 9 polls. (ALI VICOY / MANILA BULLETIN)

Comelec earlier stated that the elections will press on no matter what happens, and it will undoubtedly go down as arguably one of the most anticipated events this year.

But surely, the upcoming May 2022 polls will not be without minor or even (we hope not) major setbacks. Fortunately, Comelec has come up with Resolution no. 10759 which contains contingency procedures for every possible scenario in connection to the elections which some officials have also announced publicly

Under Article V of the said resolution are the contingency procedures on Election Day. Let's take a look at some of the minor and major cases and the solutions provided by Comelec for it.

Missing marking pens/out of ink The matter will be reported by the Electoral Board (EB) to the DESO and in this case voters will be using regular black ballpoint pens.

Teachers fail to attend

What if a teacher failed to arrive? Commissioner George Erwin Garcia said that this usually occurs and that a member of the EB will automatically replace the teacher.

Delay of election paraphernalia

Sometimes, election paraphernalia arrives late. Garcia said that in this case, under Comelec's resolution they allow upon request an early delivery of the election paraphernalia in far-flung areas especially those that actually require small boats, long walks or other means of transportation.

He stated that this is allowed as long as there is an authorization as well as a notice to all parties, candidates, political parties and citizen's arms that they will get in advance the said paraphernalia so they can start at the exact time on election day.

VCM malfunction

What if while voting, the Electoral Board (EB) notices that the Vote-Counting Machine (VCM) is suddenly malfunctioning and is not responding? Here's what the resolution states.

According to Garcia, in case of any bugs or glitches with the machines on election day, they already have contingency measures in place. Technicians who are trained to fix the VCMs will be available. Under the resolution, after an hour has passed and the machine remains unfixed, it will then be replaced. Garcia said that voting will not cease while waiting for a new machine.

According to the resolution, under this situation, within the duration of troubleshooting or seeking the replacement of the VCM, the EB shall announce to the voters casting or waiting to cast their votes that they have the following options:

  • To proceed in casting their votes by shading their ballots with waiver of their right to be issued a voter’s receipt. In which case, these ballots shall be temporarily placed inside the Envelope for Rejected Ballots, Half or Torn Unused Official Ballots and Other Half of Torn Unused Official Ballots, and Counted Official Ballots and which shall be batch-fed by the EB before the close of polls; or
  • To wait for the VCM malfunction to be resolved or the replacement VCM to arrive, for them to cast their votes and personally feed the ballot in the VCM.

This same process is also followed with defective SD cards.

Ballot jam

In case of a ballot jam, the resolution states that if it's visible in the VCM entry slot, the EB shall gently pull out the ballot from the entry slot and allow the voter to re-feed the ballot. If not, the EB shall detach the VCM from the ballot box cover and retrieve from the ballot exit slot the ballot causing the jam.

"After the VCM has been cleared of the ballot jam, the EB shall install again the VCM on top of the ballot box. The EB shall return the ballot to the voter who shall re-feed the ballot to the VCM," it stated.

"If the ballot is rejected by reason that it has already been counted, the EB shall open the ballot box and place the ballot inside, in the presence of the watchers," it added.

If the EB has difficulty removing it or unable to do so, technical support will be called. In all cases, the EB shall ensure the secrecy of the ballot.

Ballot rejection If ever a ballot suddenly gets rejected after several successful attempts beforehand, before feeding the next ballot, the EB shall perform scanner cleaning procedure. If after cleaning the VCM still rejects the ballot even after feeding in four different orientations, technical support will be called.

Continuous rejection even after several attempts by technicians like in the case of VCM malfunction, it will result in replacement.

Power failure According to the resolution, in case of a power failure the EB shall ensure that the VCM is connected to the battery and report the power failure to the DESO. The DESO shall notify the Election Officers (EO) who shall then report to the CEMAC – Command Center of this fact. CEMAC refers to the Comelec Election Monitoring Action Center, where all AES-related contingencies nationwide are reported, addressed and resolved.

The DESO will then ask the local electric provider how long the power interruption will last and advise the EB on the matter. If power cannot be restored by 5:00 p.m. on election day, the EB shall provide alternative lighting provisions.

Sabotage, explosion, equipment robbery

The resolution states that if the EB is required to leave the precinct, the EB shall report this to the EO and immediately secure all equipment, election forms and supplies, inform all political party representatives, citizens' arm and watchers present of the transfer or suspension of voting, and then proceed with security or health personnel to a safer place.

Once it is deemed safe, the EB shall conduct inventory of all equipment, forms and election supplies. If there are missing item/s, the EB shall report to the EO and local PNP for proper documentation and investigation. Thereafter, the EO shall call the CEMAC – Command Center to inform about the missing item/s.

This goes the same for instances such as fires, floods and other catastrophic events.

Garcia said that they will continuously monitor the different parts of the country especially in terms of security since there are those who might attempt to resort to violence and acts of terrorism. He said that they will not allow such acts and that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Philippine Coast Guard have already committed that they will aid in maintaining a peaceful election.

Will the 7-hour glitch occur again?

It can be remembered that in the 2019 polls, a technical glitch was encountered by the poll body’s file transfer protocol (FTP) application which resulted in a seven-hour delay in the transmission of votes to the transparency server.

Yet Commissioner Marlon Casquejo said hat they are confident that there will be no repeat of the seven-hour delay that occurred during the 2019 midterm elections.

"Nagkaroon tayo ng stress test...sending 100,000 or 50,000 results sabay-sabay at di naman po nagkaroon ng problema dun. Hindi naman po tayo nabilaukan (We had a stress test...sending 100,000 or 50,000 results all at the same time and did not encounter any problem. There was no bottleneck)," he said.

"So we are confident that the hardware component as well as the software component malaki na yung capacity and hindi na mangyayari yung sinasabing (has a larger capacity and there will be no repeat of the so-called) seven-hour glitch. We are confident for that," he added.

In case problems will occur, which according to Casquejo will be unavoidable, the transparency server will not be tinkered with. He said that they will have contingency measures for problems as with what happened in 2019.

During the 2019 incident, Casquejo said that the system only needed to be rebooted for it to work again.