Friday, August 3, 2012

Speed of automated polls counters fraud

The longer it takes for election results to be determined, the larger the window given to fraudsters to tamper with the results. While accuracy is the primary benefit of e-voting, speed is another compelling reason for automating a country’s electoral system.

Prior to its first automated polls in 2010, a prolonged period of indeterminacy was the norm in Philippine elections. Counting took days, and canvassing weeks or even months. In the precinct level, this encouraged fraud tactics such as ballot box-snatching. In the canvassing level, the problem got even worse where a tactic called “dagdag-bawas” (vote padding-vote shaving) was frequently employed by corrupt politicians to dramatically alter the results in their favor.

Dagdag bawas is the process of increasing the votes of a candidate by shaving the votes of the other candidates. This usually happens when canvassing precinct level counts into municipal counts, municipal counts into provincial counts, and from provincial counts into national counts. Since the alteration is exponential, the results can indeed be radically altered.

The slow manual system likewise put the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) at great risk of intimidation, injury and even murder.

The introduction of the PCOS machine in 2010 gave the Philippine electoral system a major credibility boost. Initial results were delivered just mere hours after the polls closed and many local officials were proclaimed as winners soon after.

The morning after the elections, Filipinos already had a clear indication of who their next president would be. A major presidential aspirant conceded two days which came as a pleasant surprise for Filipinos used to bitter wrangling which dragged on for months.

A few months after the elections, the survey firm Social Weather Station reported that an overwhelming 75% of Filipinos were satisfied with the automation project, citing speed as one of the major factors.