According to an employee of Smartmatic, there simply isn’t enough time to get the PCOS machines ready for the May 10 elections.
Said Smartmatic employee is one of a handful tasked to pull out the faulty memory cards for replacement. By his own estimation, it will take him four to five days (driving around) to visit all the machines within his area of responsibility, with one trip requiring 12 non-stop hours on the road. The 2010 elections are 5 days away.
The employee has requested for a helicopter, because there is simply no way for him to get the job done in time for May 10 through his current mode of transport. After pulling all the faulty software cards, the employee will have to forward them to Manila for reconfiguration/repair, wait for them to return, and then personally make the trip back to the precinct machines to reinstall them.
Last Minute Rush
The last-minute rush to get the machines working begs a very reasonable question: why was this so-called “final phase” of testing conducted on the last week before the actual elections? For such a large-scale implementation like a nationwide automated election system, these problems should’ve appeared and been dealt with a few months ago. It’s not unreasonable to assume testing was possible with dummy data, right?
Should the Elections be Postponed?
One of the stated objectives of the automated election system was to cut down on the possibility of cheating. Election returns would be transmitted electronically through secure channels, eventually to the Congress for canvassing. The relative security of this process argues for postponement.
Yet at the same time, fixing the machines may take days, or even weeks. There’s no guarantee that the fixes will work properly; in fact they may cause new glitches that need to be dealt with. Are we willing to postpone elections to June 2010 at the very least?
Perhaps come May 10, we may find ourselves reverting back to completely manual elections. Whatever the case, the COMELEC and Smartmatic should work to resolve issues with the PCOS machines as soon as possible. Whether or not the 2010 elections will be automated, the taxpayers’ investment of 8 billion pesos demands the creation of a working system, for the upcoming elections, or subsequent ones.