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The first day of overseas voting hits a snag just before the closing

10 April 2016


By the time the day’s last voter fed her ballot into the vote counting machine in Room SB06, it was past 5pm and the device scanned the document but did not read it. She would have been the 1,129th voter on Day One.
The last-minute glitch suddenly became a cause for concern among officials of the Consulate who had just reviewed the events of the days in order to pinpoint any bug that should be fixed ahead of the expected surge of voters the next day, a Sunday.
Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, head of the Consulate’s cultural section who was in charge of this year’s overseas voting in Hong Kong, rushed to SB06 along with Consul Charles Macaspac and other consular officers after the room’s special board of canvassers reported the bug.
There they saw Marasigan, 40, a domestic worker from Yuen Long, who looked worried about what happened to her vote.
Coincidentally, it was in SB06 where the first Hong Kong-based Filipino voter Baneng Mendez cast her ballot.
Vallespin took pains explaining that her ballot was possibly spoiled and she had to wait for the Commission on Elections IT support technician who had been called to find out what went wrong.
When the technician did come at around 6pm, Marasigan was asked a few times to insert her ballot, but the machine still refused to read it.
“What happened to (Marasigan’s) ballot was, the VCM refused to read it despite our efforts to fix its orientation,” Vallespin said.
“So (the technician) again conducted a diagnosis several times, but the machine just wouldn’t take it, so what happens is this is now a spoiled ballot,” he said.
Before Marasigan left the voting precinct, she watched the chairman of SBEI No 10 seal the ballot in a brown envelope for transmittal to the Comelec head offices in Manila.
Comelec technician Dexter Beronio explained that humidity could have moistened the ballot paper to a point where the VCM’s sensitive scanner could not read and validate it.
He said the machine should be observed when the first ballot on Sunday is cast to see if still misbehaves. If it does, then the glitch is in the machine; if it works, then Marasigan’s ballot is indeed spoiled.
“If that the case, Marasigan could no longer be given another ballot because her ballot is spoiled, and according to the General Instructions, she can no longer be given another ballot,” Vallespin said.
Marasigan was upset. “Sayang naman ang aking boto, piling-pili pa naman ang mga ibinoto ko pati sa mga senador,” she said, admitting that she voted for Rodrigo Duterte and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.
Macaspac said that in case machine No 6 is declared unusable on April 10, when thousands of OFWs are expected to cast their ballot, those assigned to SB06 would be directed to SB10 until the 1,000 ballots there are used up.
Afterwards, the SD card of VCM No 6 would be installed on the machine in SB10 so that the 3,000 ballots in SB06 could be used in that room.
Consulate officials hoped the bug would be gone on Day Two. -- Vir B. Lumicao
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