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Monday, May 3, 2010

HOW WILL FILIPINOS BE VOTING IN THE MAY 10 POLLS

HOW WILL FILIPINOS BE VOTING IN THE 2...
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HOW WILL FILIPINOS BE VOTING IN THE 2010 ELECTIONS?

For the first time in history, the Philippines will be having an Automated Elections Systems (AES) for its national elections. The actual voting itself is still a manual process as the voters still need to manually fill up the ballot. But unlike in the old manual system, the new ballot will be pre-printed with the names of candidates. The voter only needs to mark his selections on the ballot, thereby saving significant time and effort in the process. He then feeds it into a machine called the Precinct Count Optical Scan. (PCOS) , which scans or takes a picture of the ballot and interprets the picture. 
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HOW WILL THE VOTES BE COUNTED?

At the end of the Voting Day, the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) will close the elections by accessing the Administrative Menu on the PCOS. Only upon closing the elections can the PCOS start counting the votes. Unlike in the manual process, counting by the PCOS process happens instantly. The PCOS then prints 8 copies of ER together with a statistic report and an audit log. 
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HOW WILL THE ELECTION RETURNS BE TRANSMITTED?

The BEI then connects the Transmission device to the PCOS via the Ethernet port. The Automated Counting Machines is only "connected" once at the end of the voting day, and then disconnected after transmission. The transmission process takes less than 2 minutes. As in the manual process, the results from the precincts will be transmitted to the Municipal Canvassing Server / Station. The municipal canvassing server canvasses all the results from the precincts under its jurisdiction. Once all the results are canvassed, the MBOC (Municipal Board of Canvassers) can generate and print out the Municipal Certificate of Canvass as well as the Statement of Votes. This process is repeated, transmitting the results and printing the necessary reports in the Provincial and National Canvassing Stations. 
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HOW SURE ARE WE THAT RESULTS CANNOT BE INTERCEPTED AND ALTERED DURING TRANSMISSION?

Prior to transmitting the Election Returns, the PCOS digitally signs the files using the SHA256 algorithm and encrypts them using the AES128 algorithm. This encryption level is as good, if not better than most online banking transactions, which are "connected" 24 hours a day, seven days a week. By contrast, the Automated Counting Machines is connected only at the end of the voting day, only for the short period needed to send the information. This makes the risk of "hacking" virtually impossible. 
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WHAT OTHER SAFEGUARDS ARE IN PLACE TO ENSURE THAT THE VOTES IN THE PRECINCT MAINTAIN THEIR INTEGRITY?

From the precinct, the results will be directly transmitted to the National Canvassing station to serve as back-up and additional layer of audit. The results at the National Canvassing Server will automatically be transmitted to the Back-up center, with the data synchronized at all times. For added transparency, the results will be transmitted to the servers designated for the KBP (Kapisanan ng mga Brodkasters ng Pilipinas), the watchdogs, and other groups as specified in RA 9369. 
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CAN FAKE BALLOTS BE FED INTO THE PCOS?

No. The ballots contain several security features that eliminate fraud. Ballots flagged by the machine as invalid will be diverted into a different compartment for stray ballots and will not be counted. 
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WHAT ARE THE SECURITY FEATURES OF THE BALLOT?

Position Identifiers / Markers: On all sides of the ballot are position identifiers, whose intersection points would indicate the placement of an oval. This allows the system to accurately locate the position of a mark, and evaluate it accordingly. Bar Code. Each ballot has a unique bar code. This makes sure that each ballot is counted only once, and at the canvassing level, can identify the details of the ballot (the precinct it was casted in, the machine that evaluated the ballot, etc. UV Ink: Each ballot is also marked with a UV ink, which is not readily apparent on casual scrutiny. This mark is visible to the special lens and light of the Automated Counting Machine, which verifies first the presence of the UV ink before casting a vote. 
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WHAT SHALL VOTERS USE TO MARK THEIR BALLOTS?

COMELEC / SMARTMATIC-TIM would be providing special ballot markers to each precinct, which will be used for the voting process. The Automated Counting Machine can accommodate pencil marks, but for reasons of securing the process (as pencil marks can be erased and replaced), black markers will be used. NOTE: Pencil marks are editable, and therefore not recommended. In an extreme case where marks are maliciously edited after the ballots have been casted, counted and transmitted, and an audit takes place, this could lead to a lot of suspicion and confusion in the process. 
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HOW SHOULD THE BALLOTS BE SHADED?

Ovals should be shaded fully. Marks are evaluated based on a COMELEC defined sensitivity-level. For example, a half-shade (filling half of an oval) will be evaluated by the Automated Counting Machine whereas a dot would not. This protects against accidental marking of an oval. Furthermore, the practice of shading an oval completely shows that the voter is actively and with full intention selecting the candidate of their choice. 
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IS THERE ANY ASSURANCE THAT THE HARDWARE AND SOFTWARE THAT THE AES WILL USE ARE SAFE AND SECURE?

Yes. Security and system integrity are overriding concerns before, during, and after the elections. A. PRE-ELECTIONS. 1. Source-Code Audits – The system will undergo the necessary source-code audits (by an Independent International Source Code Auditor, political parties and interested parties) as prescribed by law. 2. Testing – Before the Automated Counting Machines are deployed for the elections, the technology will be tested and certified by the DOST and will undergo 2-3 Field Tests to fine-tune the system, and a Mock Election to simulate the actual conditions in the elections. 3. Pre-Sealing Event – Three days before the Elections, all the Automated Counting Machines will have been deployed to all the voting centers throughout the country. During the Pre-Sealing Event, the BEIs, witnessed by the Watchers and representatives of the political parties involved, will test the system and make sure that the technology will function as expected. B. DURING Accessing the System – The BEIs access the administrative menu of the system by positioning the Security Key on the contact point firmly. The BEI would then be shown a new page in the Touch Screen panel --- the Administrative Menu. Opening of the Elections – To open the Elections, the BEI would press the START button on the touch screen. The system would then prompt the BEIs for two passwords(operationally, 2 BEIs would have one password each, and the BEIs would then input their passwords in succession). Upon opening, the system would automatically print the ZERO VOTE DOCUMENT. - ZERO VOTE DOCUMENT - This report is basically an ER showing zero votes for each candidate in each contest. This the automated version of publicly inverting the ballot box in the manual process, showing that the box has not been previously stuffed with votes. The report would then be signed by the BEIs and the watchers. As mentioned earlier, the Automated Counting Machines captures an image of each of the ballot cast. Furthermore, that same image would be appended with a human-readable report of how the Automated Counting Machines interpreted the marks. In cases of recounts, we can review the ballot images, and see at a glance how the marks were evaluated. 
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WHAT HAPPENS IF A VOTER SELECTS LESS CANDIDATES THAN EXPECTED?

It's called an under-Vote. Under-votes are valid votes, and will be interpreted by the system accordingly. For example, for a contest where the voter can select a maximum of 12 candidates, choosing a number of candidates less than the expected 12 is still valid and will be counted. 
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WHAT HAPPENS IF A VOTER SELECT MORE CANDIDATES THAN EXPECTED?

It's called an over-vote. The system will not accept over-voting for any contest. Should there be an instance of over-vote for a particular contest (for example, voting for 2 candidates in the President contest), that contest will not be counted. However, the other contests would still be evaluated and counted, provided that those contests were not over-voted in. 
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IN CASE OF MASSIVE BLACKOUTS ON MAY 10, COULD IT LEAD TO FAILURE OF ELECTIONS?

NO. The Department of Energy can and should prioritize May 10, 2010 -- 1 day for National Elections. There are always portable generators provided by the poll watchers, political parties, among others during elections. Comelec's service provider, Smartmatic-TIM, is required to have 12 hour back-up batteries. Spares are also available at strategic locations from its technical support staff. The machines are essentially laptops which require low power consumption and which can easily be connected to a variety of power sources including rechargeable batteries, inverters and portable generators. Rechargeable batteries are readily available in commercial retail stores nationwide. TELCOs have, as standard practice, 2 standby power generator sets in their stations/facilities. SO MANY ALTERNATIVE SOURCES OF POWER. POWER FAILURE WILL NEVER LEAD TO ELECTION FAILURE. 
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THERE MIGHT NOT BE ENOUGH TIME TO ACCOMMODATE ALL VOTERS. COULD THIS LEAD TO MASSIVE DISENFRANCHISEMENT?

NO. AES process is actually shorter. No ballot serial numbers to log and perforate. No going through several pages of candidate list. Candidates are listed alphabetically, easy to choose. Illiterates don't have to write anything – they just shade ovals. 
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JUST HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO CAST A BALLOT? HOW MANY BALLOTS CAN THE PCOS PROCESS IN 11 HOURS?

Based on informal Comelec time-and-motion study, it takes an average of 8 seconds for a complete ballot casting cycle. Even if we double this number and use 15 seconds as an estimate for a single ballot to be cast; 15 seconds per ballot cast = Four ballots cast per minute; At 50% machine utilization , this is reduced to two ballots cast per minute; Two ballots cast per minute = 120 ballots cast per hour; 120 ballots cast per hour for 11 hours = 1,320 ballots cast for the entire Election Day; and Assuming 100% voter turnout, the PCOS machine can cast on Election Day is 1,320 ballots 
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1. WHERE WILL COMELEC/SMARTMATIC-TIM FIND THE 50,000 IT TECHNICIANS IT NEEDS FOR ELECTION DAY?

The ICT industry associations have volunteered to join efforts to assist COMELEC in the deployment of IT technicians nationwide. Institute of Electronics Communications Engineers of the Philippines (IECEP) the Philippine Electronics and Telecommunications Federation (PETEF), the Philippine Computer Society (PCS), the Information Systems Security Society of the Philippines (ISSSP), the Chief Information Officers Forum (CIO Forum) from all government IT departments, and others. Likewise, PPCRV, NAMFREL, CER, schools, universities are also being tapped to assist by providing their graduating students in the IT, science and engineering field. THERE IS NO SHORTAGE OF FILIPINOS WHO WOULD LIKE TO BE PART OF HISTORY. THERE WILL BE ENOUGH IT TECHNICIANS ON THE GROUND TO ENSURE SUCCESS OF THE AUTOMATED POLLS. 
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2. WHAT IF THERE IS NO SIGNAL TO TRANSMIT THE RESULTS?

COMELEC en banc had created a Technical Working Group for Transmission composed of representatives from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), Telecommunications Office (TELOF), the telecommunications carriers PLDT/Smart, Globe/Innove, Digitel/Sun including the provincial telephone companies and the cable TV internet providers. This assures there will be internet access from at least 2 to 3 carriers per polling precinct nationwide. In the remote island precincts where the carriers may find difficulty in extending their service coverage and as back-up, mobile satellite technology will be used. It is expected that these remote island precincts will cover less than 1% of the 40k polling centers with an average voting population of 200 to 400 per clustered precinct, a total of approximately 200k votes. With the multiple redundancies and servers at the municipal, provincial and national levels including a server for media and the political parties and watchdogs, a system loss is highly improbable. 
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WHAT DOES THE AUTOMATION COVER?

The Automation Project covers the following processes of Elections: Voting, Counting, Canvassing and Proclamation. Registration and Authentication is outside of the scope of the Project. In other words, the management of the Voter's List and the Validation of a Voter in the precinct is still a manual process. 
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CAN DAGDAG-BAWAS STILL OCCUR?

No. The counting, canvassing and proclamation process for the 2010 National and Local Elections will be completely automated. There is absolutely NO HUMAN INTERVENTION. No more room for mistakes and fraud. 
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WHAT ABOUT THE FLYING VOTERS?

As mentioned, registration and authentication of voters is outside the scope of the Automation Project. However, the technology can limit the instances of flying voting, as each and every clustered precinct's corresponding number of voters is programmed into the voting machine to be used. Therefore, for example, a precinct has 453 voters (including the BEIs), the voting machine deployed there would only accept 453 casted votes. 
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WHAT HAPPENS IF A VOTER MAKES A MISTAKE?

Currently, the COMELEC is considering giving the BEIs the authority to issue replacement ballots in certain cases, under their discretion (if the voter makes an honest mistake, for example). The final policy will be determined by the COMELEC. However, we should highlight the importance of conducting a very good Voter Education Campaign. Voters should be encouraged to prepare a codigo before hand. 
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WHAT HAPPENS IF A BEI LOSES HIS KEY?

The technicians at the municipal level will encrypt a new key to replace the missing one. The old key will be disabled and can no longer be used for any machine. 
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HOW MANY SPARE KEYS WILL BE PRODUCED?

The distribution is done according to the number of precincts in the municipality, those with more PCOS get more spare keys. The computation will be done when final POP (Project of Precincts) becomes available. 
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DOES THE PCOS PRODUCE RECEIPTS SHOWING THE SELECTIONS THE VOTER MADE, AS AN AUDIT TRAIL?

No. The thermal printer is used to print out the Election Returns and other reports. The ballots themselves are the paper audit trail. For purpose of audits or recounts, we could compare the ballots in the ballot box with the results in the ER and with the ballot images stored in the machine. The thermal paper to be used for the elections will be manufacturer guaranteed to last at least 5 years in optimum conditions. NOTE: Receipts generated by the system upon each vote, to be kept by the voter, would be against some basic aspects of Elections: voter-anonymity and vote-secrecy. 
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AT WHAT LEVEL WILL THE SERVERS ASSIGNED FOR THE WATCHDOGS AND THE MEDIA RECEIVE THE ELECTION RESULTS? WILL THIS BE FROM THE PRECINCT OR FROM THE NATIONAL LEVEL?

It will be done at the precinct level. The BEI shall execute a command to: - Electronically transmit the ER, together with the precinct's statistical report and the PCOS unit's audit log report to the following destinations: - city/municipal BOC; provincial BOC; - NBOCs of COMELEC and Congress; - Dominant majority party, Dominant minority party, - Accredited citizens' arm, and KBP; and - Central server. 
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CAN MALICIOUS ENTITIES INSERT A VIRUS INTO THE PCOS?

No. First of all, physical access to the system is limited to 2 memory card slots, which will be secured using a serially labeled lock. These locks would prevent, or make it obvious that the machine has been tampered with. Furthermore, the Operating System used in the PCOS is Linux, which as a platform is very secure, employing access controls to limit the activities of profiles. This Operating System environment will not tolerate the presence of virus and malware, or at the very least, prevent such malicious programming from running. 
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HOW SOON WILL THE WINNERS BE DETERMINED?

Based on experience, 90% of results would arrive between 4 to 6 hours after the close of polls. Factors that may delay the process are delays in transmission due to network unavailability and the need to undergo contingency procedures (contingency transmission system). Furthermore, not all polling places are ready to at the exact closing time, depending on voter presence and accommodation of voters beyond the closing time, as prescribed by law. 
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CAN A FAILURE OF ELECTIONS HAPPEN?

NO. It is not possible. As the voters will still be voting using paper (it is still a "paper-based" elections), there is no chance of failure of elections. Should the voting machines, despite all the precautions and contingency procedures in place, still fail in the precinct, the voters can still resort to "manual" elections --- using the ballots. The holding of elections are not dependent and "held hostage" by the performance of the voting machines. 
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1 comment:

士松 said...

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