Over 60,000 poll machines are ready to be used for the first-ever national automated polls in May, Commission on Elections (Comelec) chairman Jose Melo announced on Thursday.
Melo made the announcement after his visit to the Comelec warehouse in Laguna. Melo expressed satisfaction over the results of the laboratory stress tests and other operational tests conducted on the machines.
After all 60,000 poll machines passed the operational and security testing, Melo said they are ready to load the machines with the automation software certified by international agency Systest Labs.
About 13,000 precinct count optical scan machines are set to arrive February 26, two days earlier than the delivery deadline. Installing the certified software on the poll machines will continue until March, when all poll machines have been tested.
Asked to rank in a scale of one to 10, with 10 signaling Comelec as most prepared for the May elections, Melo said “nine”, citing the 100 percent passing rate of the poll machines when subjected to several stress and functionality tests.
The poll chief was quoted Wednesday as saying he would quit Comelec “if poll automation fails.”
During the testing, the poll machines are fed with hundreds of marked paper ballots to ensure they can read and scan all the shaded ovals opposite all pre-printed names of candidates and, after scanning, that they can print the Election Returns (ERs), said Smartmatic warehouse manager Louie Campos.
Of the 68,000 machines delivered to the Laguna warehouse, only four percent failed the test on the first run but was able to comply with the requirements when tested for the second time, he said.
“The four percent of the machines which failed the tests are quarantined and are subjected to another testing based on the cause of its non-compliance. For example, if the machine fails in the scanning test, we fed it another batch of papers. So it’s not the machine’s problem but the paper itself and after we diagnose this, the machines pass the test,” said Campos.
The warehouse official added that no machine was sent for repair at the warehouse despite the four percent failing the test for the first time due to “scanning problems.”
Melo also gave an approval for the printing of the ballots. Presently, six million ballots have been printed at the National Printing Office for use in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and the provinces of Bohol, Cagayan, Batanes and Palawan, among others.
Melo also showed the media that the ballots to be shipped per clustered precinct were sealed in vacuum plastics and placed in black plastic box that is finally covered by a stretch plastic film for protection against humidity, high temperature and sunlight that might damage the invisible UV ink, one of the ballot’s main security features.
Also present during the site visit, automation law co-author and Makati Representative Teddy Boy Locsin gave the Comelec “two-thumbs up” for its vigilance to continue the project.
“The Comelec did a great job here and it seems we are sure to have the country’s first automated elections in May 10,” Locsin told INQUIRER.net.