Monday, May 10, 2010

Poll hours extended to 7 p.m.—Comelec

By Abigail Kwok
First Posted 11:57:00 05/10/2010

Filed Under: Eleksyon 2010, Elections

Original Story:

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Long queues and problematic PCOS (precinct count optical scan) machines have prompted the Commission on Elections to extend voting hours from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday, Chairman Jose Melo announced in a press conference.

“We would like to inform everybody, especially those out there still voting, and the BEIs (board of election inspectors) doing their job very well, that it seems that at the start, the voting process was not as fast as we would have expected or desired. So we are hereby extending the voting hours from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., by one hour to accommodate as many voters as possible,” Melo said.

Long lines in some precincts have prompted voters to go home.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said that long queues were caused by the slow verification of voters’ identity.

“What’s happening is that in some precincts, only one person verifies the identity and gives the ballot,” Larrazabal said.

But, he stressed that in a clustered precinct, there are at least three members of a support staff. They should work together to assist in voters’ identification.

“The purpose of having a support staff is to assist the chairman and the other members in verifying the name and giving the ballots to the voters. In some cases you have 20 seats in one clustered precincts; utilize the seats. Make the most of it. Allow the voters to vote as fast as possible. The teachers are doing their best but we’d like to remind everyone to utilize those seats and let the voters vote as fast and as many as possible,” Larrazabal added.

Another cause of delay is the reported defective PCOS machines nationwide. Smartmatic-TIM has reported 328 problematic PCOS machines early into election day.

Smartmatic Asia president Cesar Flores said that of these defective PCOS machines, 239 have already been replaced. Among those problematic PCOS machines was that in the precinct where Liberal Party standard-bearer Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III voted in Tarlac.

Flores said that problems with the PCOS machines were mostly “hardware,” such as power failure, printer failure, and the compact flash cards.

Despite of the problematic machines, Comelec and Smartmatic stressed that voting should not be delayed.

“While waiting for a replacement machine, and this is something that needs to be stressed, voting should not stop. Voters should still cast their votes and put it in the ballot while the BEI is waiting for the replacement machine,” Flores said.

Despite of the problems, Melo said that the turnout was “very, very encouraging.”

“We still have seven hours to go and it seems that the turnout is very, very encouraging. The lines are very long. But unfortunately, in some or most areas probably, the voters are under the sun,” Melo said.

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