New Comelec rules for discarded ballots questioned

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has put into place a new directive allowing voters who got their ballots declined by the voting machines to be issued another ballot in replacement of the rejected one, but it was met with more criticisms as to how the poll body is going to ensure that there will be no shortage of ballots during the election period.

According to the new rules, a voter may ask for a new ballot under any of these circumstances: if the voter receipt shows a candidate you did not vote for, and if the voting machines rejected your ballots through no fault of your own. Every voting transaction will be issued a receipt and claims from voters who will declare to have wrong receipts just to cause trouble will be considered a “frivolous objection,” with offenders to be charged with perjury.

However, former Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal and current Senior Commissioner Christian Robert Lim raised concerns regarding the new rules.
Clarifying the rules will help enlighten the voters on what to expect during election day according to Larrazabal. This will ensure that every registered voter will not be stripped of his/her chance to vote. Larrazabal reminded that there must be only one ballot per voter that is why he questions the Comelec’s capability to supply enough ballots and make sure that voting precincts all over the country will not run out of it.

“What I’m saying is that it’s better if there are protocols, guidelines, and limitations that will guide or that will govern the procedures in the precinct. Kasi there’s no limit. There’s no limit to the ballots that can be replaced, di ba, if you ask for a replacement? There are no set rules on what are the grounds to say that it’s the fault of the voter,” added Larrazabal.

Lim’s concern, on the other hand, is how the poll body will determine whether a voter’s claim of a wrong receipt is a frivolous objection or not. Moreover, he explained that there is no such thing as “frivolous objections” in any existing election law and that it is not within the Comelec’s power to enact a new regulation.

“Paano mo ma-prove na frivolous siya? Hindi mo rin ma-prove eh. Impossible crime. Wala naman power ang Comelec mag promulgate ng batas,” Lim said.
In defense of the new set of rules, Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista tried justifying their move.

“Kasi pag maraming ganyang klaseng objection na mangyari sa araw ng halalan ay talagang magkakaroon ng duda or agam-agam. So naghahanap kami ng paraan nga para hindi ito maabuso,” Bautista explained.

As for the adequacy of the ballots, Bautista argued that it is not always a 100% voter turnout, so most likely there will be leftover ballots which will then be allocated for those voters who will have to ask for another one. But Bautista remains confident of the computerized system to be used in the automated polls.

“It is unlikely that any ballot will be rejected anyway,” Bautista said.

Still, Bautista said he is open for further clarifications regarding the new set of rules with his other fellow commissioners. (Carizza Ibañez)

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