Poll Automation Bill Signed

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Byline: DAVID CAGAHASTIAN

President Arroyo has signed into law the poll automation bill that would automate the election process in the country, including the May 2007 midterm elections.

Republic Act (RA) 9369 was signed last Tuesday and authorizes the use of an automated election system (AES) for the elections in selected areas in May in preparation for full automation of the elections in 2010.

"For the regular national and local elections, which shall be held immediately after the effectivity of this Act, the AES shall be used in at least two highly urbanized cities and two provinces each in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, to be chosen by the Commission," Section 5 of RA 9369 said.

The newly enacted law authorizes the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to choose which cities and provinces would be the pilot areas for partial automation in the May 2007 elections. The areas chosen by the Comelec should be approved by the local government unit concerned.

The law also mandates that local government units, whose officials are subject to administrative charges within 16 months before the May 2007 elections, could not be chosen as pilot areas for partial automation.

The new poll automation law authorizes the use of AES in "the voting, counting, consolidation, canvassing, and transmission of results and other electoral processes."

But the law also mandates that "there shall be random manual audit in one precinct per congressional district randomly chosen by the Commission in each province and city."

"Any difference between the automated and manual count will result in the determination of root cause and initiate a manual count for those precincts affected by the computer or procedural error," the law said. …