Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for BA 180.1
BA 180.1 THX2
Ms. Salma Angkaya
I. Definition and Description of Technology
Computerized voting is a superior form of casting ballots. It allows for fairer and faster voting. It takes many forms with different processes but how it is implemented depends on the technological facilities allocated for the elections procedure. Automated election system (AES) is a system that uses appropriate technology to accomplish and aid such tasks as voting, counting, consolidating, canvassing, and transmission of election result, and other electoral process. Republic Act No. 9369, which is the Amended Elections Automation Law provides for the use of two forms of AES. The first is a paper-based election system defined as “a type of automated election system that uses paper ballots, records and counts votes, tabulates, consolidates, canvasses and transmits electronically the results of the vote count.” It uses the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) Technology. Here, the voters have to shade the oval which corresponds to their candidate of choice using pencil in a specially scanned paper ballot. It is composed of 2 Laptops, 2 Digital Scanners, 2 card readers, 1 hub and 1 printer. The votes in the shaded ballots will then be scanned and counted using an Automated Counting Machine (ACM). This kind of technology is pretty much familiar in the Philippines. It is used in the National Secondary Aptitude Test (NSAT), formerly the National College Entrance Examination (NCEE), given by the Department of Education (DepEd), and in the Civil Service Commission (CSC) Licensure Examinations and other examinations given by the Professional Regulatory Commission (PRC), wherein the answer sheet is composed of ovals and the oval corresponding to the chosen answer would be shaded by the examinee. The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) for its Lotto system, wherein the ovals, corresponding to the numbers being bet upon, are also shaded, employs a similar system. In all these, the answer sheets and the lotto cards are read, or counted, by the OMR. Because of its familiarity, and because it makes use of ballots which is what most Filipinos are familiar to, this system was recommended as the most suitable for the Philippine setting.
The second form is the Direct Recording Electronic (DRE). It is defined as “a type of automated election system that uses electronic ballots, records votes by means of a ballot display provided with mechanical or electro-optical components that can be activated by the voter, processes data by means of a computer program, records voting data and ballot images, and transmits voting results electronically.” voters are provided with a Voting Pad where the photos of candidates can be selected by pressing on the desired picture. Once the vote is final, a receipt is generated after pressing ‘BOTO‘. The Board of Election Inspectors keeps the receipt just in case there are complaints raised. However, DRE Technology can only be deployed in areas where communications is available and reliable.
The first automated election was held in ARMM last August 11, 2008. There were a lot of “firsts” during this historical event: First fraud-free election in more than half a century; first time the winning candidates were proclaimed in less than two days after election day; first to use electronic voting and transmission machines in a Philippine electoral exercise; first time election results have been uncontested; first elections with practically no reports of voter disenfranchisement; and first elections where the rate of failure of elections is less than 1 percent. Voters’ turnout was greater than expected, reaching 90% of the expected voting population.
On February 25, UP Diliman(UPD) held its first campus-wide computerized University Student Council (USC) elections. The open source voting system, called “Halalan”, was created by the UP Linux Users Group (UnPLUG), a student organization at the College of Engineering (CoE). The colleges provided the computers for the elections. The voting process started with students presenting their IDs or Form-5s to attending poll clerks, who checked the list of valid voters. Students on the list then received their passwords from the poll clerks and proceeded to unoccupied voting stations. Using their student numbers and the passwords provided as login information, they opened their electronic ballots and marked the boxes of their chosen candidates. Once they clicked the confirm button, their votes were final and they were automatically logged out. The system allows voters to log in again but only to check their votes, not change them. The first working prototype of Halalan was created in January 2005 and presented to UPD student councils and student publications later that month at the Palma Hall Lobby. Its first application in the USC elections was at the CoE and the School of Statistics in 2007. A year later, the College of Business Administration, the College of Mass Communication, and the School of Library and Information Science also adopted the system.
II. Providers of the Technology
Computerized elections would not be possible without Republic Act No. 9369 and the lawmakers behind it. But, ultimately, this new system of voting cannot be implemented without the technology need to run the whole system. As far as the government is concerned, making such provisions is the extent of their ability to provide computerized elections. A third party is needed to fully implement the Act by providing the government and the Philippines with the technology needed to run the elections. Here is where the technology providers come in. Different firms have showed interest in providing the machinery and computers for the Philippines’ automated elections. 11 of which are foreign companies, though only one of them will be chosen and be given the contract through a series of bidding. These are US firms Sequioa, Avante, ES/S, Hart and Scantron; Venezuela’s Smartmatic; United Kingdom’s DRS; India’s Bharat; South Korea’s DVS Korea; Gilat Solution of Israel and Spain’s Indra System. Whoever gets the contract will be renting out about 80,000 machines that will be used for the 2010 elections. Two of these providers have already serviced the elections here in the Philippines, specifically the ARMM elections. Venezuela’s Smartmatic provided the DRE – Direct Recording Electronic technology which uses an Automated Voting Machine (AVM) and allows voters to choose their candidates on an electronic voting pad and confirm their choices using a simple touch screen system. The Smartmatic SAES4000 system is a combination of hardware with secure software and manned by highly qualified human resources that enables it to ensure fault less elections. Smartmatic joined forces with Strategic Alliance Holdings, Inc. (SAHI), a fully Filipino owned technology provider specializing in the provision of IT solutions to both the public and private sectors, to form SMARTMATIC-SAHI Technology, Inc. Together; they provided the necessary technology and IT solutions for the automation ARMM elections and if given the contract again, they may as well provide the technology and technical expertise for the 2010 national elections. Another provider in the ARMM elections and a bidder for the contract for the 2010 elections is Avante International Technology, Inc. They provided the OMR – Optical Mark Reader technology. Their very own, AVANTE's PATENTED OPTICAL-VOTE-TRAKKER® is an optical scan system that enables scanning of paper ballots that are captured as digital ballot images for faster, easier and error free tallying. Avante also provided Automated Counting Machine (ACM) to be used in tallying the votes. “The AVANTE ACM system also has a patented and proven capability to detect and reject counterfeit or fake ballots”
III. Users of the Technology
Being the little brother of the United States of America in Asia, the Philippines and we, Filipinos, always had the notion of what a country should be. It should be for the people, by the people and of the people in other words, democratic. We have toppled administrations that we did not approve of and by peaceful means at that. The users of the technology, Online Elections, would be the Filipino people in general and also, in a way it can be a step by step process in which, it can be first implemented in school elections then, the local elections, and the national elections is the last step. As Filipinos, we hate knowing that we are being taken advantage of whether be it in terms elections or anything in general. We hate that we are being governed by unworthy people and people who are not deserving of the position. How then are they able to achieve such feats? We can’t be possibly sure but a rational explanation would be that we are being cheated in the elections. And thus, by applying this technology we are able to prevent this from happening. The users will benefit from it and the country as a whole because the integrity of the elections would be objectified and strengthened. The public will also be satisfied because faster results are guaranteed by the usage of automated and online elections. The government will also be benefited because lesser costs will have to be allocated for the elections in the long run. The initial costs might be high because of the need for technology and infrastructure upgrades and manpower training, but the succeeding costs in the next elections will be lower. However, there is also one thing that is hindering us from achieving this goal of ours, which is the digital divide, mainly because of poverty. The problem with online voting systems is that those who do not have any experience or knowledge on using or manipulating computers would find it hard and tedious to vote through computers and as such will have a harder time to cast their ballots. This might lead to lesser voter turnouts, hence, lesser participation from the general public that might affect the usefulness of the elections. This might be a hindrance to our being democratic and liberal as a people because we might accidentally shut down those who are illiterate in computers by implementing an online platform for the elections. The voters should be well informed and prepared for such adaptation of technology. As Information Technology advances here in the Philippines, the group believes that, we will be able to lessen the digital divide as an effect of online voting, as a consequence of the implementation of online voting. This will be a simultaneous effect because the government and the people are now more pressured to learn and be well versed in ICT because it is now a prerequisite to exercise their voting rights. In short, it is a two-pronged spear that would have exponential benefits when implemented rightfully.
IV. Technology Assessment
A. Readiness of the Philippines to Adapt to an Online Platform of Elections
Is the Philippines ready for automated election? Are we ready for something new? First, let us discuss the advantages and disadvantages that will emerge if our country engages with an automated election. Smartmatic (also referred as Smartmatic Corp. or Smartmatic International) is a multinational corporation founded in 2000 that specializes in the design and deployment of complex purpose-specific technology solutions. It is organized around three business areas: Electronic voting systems, integrated security systems, and biometric systems for people registration and authentication for government applications. Smartmatic offers the Smartmatic Automated Election System (SAES), a unified voting, scrutiny, tabulation, allocation and result broadcast solution -suitable for any type of election- which was officially released in 2003. In addition to the many benefits of the SAES system, its most outstanding advantage lies in the guarantee of total transparency in any given electoral or referendum process. SAES offers the possibility to verify and audit results through different means, guaranteeing zero numerical inconsistencies between all stages covered by every single vote, from actual casting to final scrutiny. Smartmatic provides us other benefits and advantages if we will deal with automation of election.
1. Financial Savings
Though automated elections deals with acquiring computer, hence will cost a large amount of money, it can still cut cost in other expenses, i.e. labor cost. Since the computer would do the counting. That means fewer laborers are needed. Normally, automation requires a large up-front investment in hardware and software, as well as expensive training of electoral workers and running educational campaigns for voters. Automated elections guarantees short- and long-term returns that can greatly compensate for the initial investment.
2. Increased speed and efficiency of electoral task and faster electoral results
The computer to be used has internal tools that can increase speed and efficiency for some important works during the election. Also, using computers would make the election itself faster. Voting manually would consume time for the voters to write name of the candidates, etc. Also, with vast advancement of technology, the machine/ computer has a tool that can count the votes faster and more accurate. Using computers/machines, they would be the one to tally and transmit the votes to the electoral board without human intervention. The automated electoral system mechanisms significantly reduce the chances of errors, because vote counting is based on an internal machine count rather than on individual ballots, which can be tampered with.
3. Improved capacity to identify and prevent frauds
With the system using ultra-safe encryption algorithms to store and transmit each vote from the SAES voting machine to the tabulation centers, tampering of votes will be prevented and the integrity of the elections would be higher.
On the other hand, one of the disadvantages of using computers/ machine in election is the broad knowledge of man in terms of technology. Though computers may have high securities, there are many computer “geeks” that can bombard the computers and the system as a whole. They have many ways to hack those computers to be used in the elections. Hackers are the number one enemy of this system. Hackers are known to infiltrate and manipulate even the most sophisticated computer programs in the world. Also, technology, though seems to be perfect, may still have errors in its components. We all know that no computer system is 100% tamper-proof, or foolproof. We are not sure that it, the automated election, may give us the best results of the elections. Also, can this system eliminate other election-related problems like vote buying?
Presented with the advantages and disadvantages, another question may arise, will the people of the Philippines be able to adapt to the new system?
In the present generation, people became more literate, especially with the use of computer. Having had computer lessons during elementary and secondary education, even in public schools, people know the basics on the use of computer. One survey conducted was that about 25 million Filipinos are using computers and the internet, mostly in developed cities. Though some are underprivileged, they still have access on computers through internet cafés. However, that is in the urban area. How about in the rural and the isolated area? We all know that the Philippines is a developing country, and many areas here do not permit people to have a technology-integrated lives. Especially in the province, many indigenous ethnic groups do not know how to use computer, nor, do they know how to read and write. So, how can these people adapt to the new system? They need time to learn. Also, some areas here in the Philippines do not have electricity. In those areas, for sure, they would conduct manual voting. It is not consistent that some areas will have automated election, while some have manual elections. Actually, last August 2008, the ARMM conducted their elections. They used a new system of automation. Hence, the COMELEC said that the election was a success. COMELEC Jose Melo said he was “very, very satisfied” with the conduct of the elections in the ARMM, dubbed the “cheating capital” of the Philippines. And less than 24 hours, more than half of the poll results were in with the COMELEC. As what we discussed earlier, automated election would increase speed and efficiency, like what the ARMM election has experienced. Actually, this automated election in ARMM is an experiment for the 2010 National election. If the ARMM election is a success, would be the National Election on 2010 be a success with the use of computer? We’ll find out since the President signed the law that passed Republic Act No. 9525 appropriating 11.3-billion supplemental budget for the full automation of the elections, a first in Philippine history. Hence, that is next year, we will see if the Philippines will be capable of having an automated election.
B. General Feasibility of Online Elections in the Philippines
Is it Feasible?
If one out of ten Filipinos have no ability to read and write at the same time, is it possible for the Philippines to have automated elections? Let us remember that for the past decades, Filipinos have successfully voted even though some do not know how to read and write. Clearly, the Philippines will be pushing through with the automated elections by the year 2010. An automated election will be feasible in the Philippines with the right and proper technology or system to be used. There are certain problems that it might encounter. Electricity in the rural areas of the Philippines is not always available; if it is available it is not that reliable. If the Commission on Elections will use Direct Recording Equipment Process there would be a problem in deploying the hundreds of thousands of units to different locations all through out the Philippines. A number of technical personnel are needed to install the system. The government already provided a budget for the transmission of the machines as well as payments needed for the technical personnel. All the voters must be trained to use the DRE system. According to Senator Gordon, Filipinos are smart enough to participate in an automated election. He also suggested that an automated election is going to be more feasible if there would be a national ID system based on biometrics.
Is it Feasible to be able to come up with a check and balance so that cheating would not be prevalent?
It is feasible. An automated election, for a fact, cannot fully prevent cheating but only certain forms of it could be prevented through check and balance. It is also a fact that there is no system that is tamper proof. The following are plausible forms of check and balance: paper audit trail of ballots, protection of software source code, no switching of ballot boxes, the testing of the technologies, and the addition of some amendments on the Senate Bill No. 2231. The Automated Election Bill in the Philippines requires that there should be a voter verifiable paper audit trail. This feature of the bill will reduce the incidents of vote buying and increase the security and credibility of the people’s votes. The voter verifiable audit trail enables the voters to review and edit their votes. On the same note the right amount of protection on the automated elections' software source code would prevent hackers on hacking on to the computers for counting and thus prevents the tampering on the number of votes. On the old system, manual transmissions of ballot boxes allow the possibility of ballot switching but with the new system, it would be prevented. Another way to check if it is feasible to have an automated election without cheating to be prevalent is to test the technology itself. The technology should be checked if it is efficient and if it works the way it should be to further eliminate certain problems with it. By testing the technology, COMELEC will know beforehand if the system can be tampered as well as its errors. The Senate approved Senate Bill No. 2231, the Amendment to the Election Automation Law states additional security for the random auditing of the system and system for recount. Other kinds of check and balance are instead of writing the name, voters marks the candidate of their choice, the voter should physically feed the ballot into the machine where the ballot has its picture taken, the election returns are proposed to be automatically transmitted, the OMR machines should not be equip with any kind of communication devices, there should be seven copies of the ER to be sent to different computers, COMELEC would provide PC’s for the different parties so that they can follow the tabulation, and the statement of vote would be projected in each canvassing center so that the watchers can compare the totals.
The paper discussed the advent of online elections that would probably dawn on us, Filipinos, next elections. It provided a background on the basics of online/automated elections, the components needed to make it possible, the methods that would be employed to guarantee the integrity safety of the votes, a discussion on the general feasibility as grounded to the advantages and disadvantages of the technology, and everything was then contextualized to fit the circumstances of the Philippines. It can then be concluded that online/automated/computerized elections can be possible in the Philippines if sufficient training and preparations are employed in spearheading it. The long-term benefits of the said platform for voting greatly exceed the initial technological and training costs that it would entail making it a feasible investment in the future for our country. But even if this new voting platform is grounded on technology and is streamlined by modernity, it is still not foolproof. Many problems were discussed regarding the possibility of hacking and the crashing of the system but it can still be considered safer than the manual voting system that we have been implementing for so long now. The problem of digital divide was also alluded to the discussion. The Philippines, as a developing country, has regions and groups of people that are deprived of technology and proper training and education. This might lead to an accidental and virtual exclusion of these people and towns from the up and coming online elections, which might possibly make lessen the voters’ turnout and the whole democracy of our elections. It can also be deduced that the implementation of the online elections will not only strengthen the integrity of our votes but in the process close the digital divide that we are experiencing right now. By training our people to use ICT, we are making them ready to use it for more things to come-not just for mere electoral usage. To end, our country might be a long way to go from being industrialized and fully prepared to reap the benefits of ICT in every major part of our everyday lives, but the conduct of the 2010 online/automated elections is a still a big step forward towards the achievement of a truly democratic and honest elections and the closure of the digital divide as a whole. Our infrastructures might not be at par to other countries and our people might not be fully informed and trained yet, but these shortcomings can be greatly remedied if we are equipped with the willingness to learn and adapt to our ever-changing world.
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