"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

16 safeguards for automated elections

At least 16 safeguards required under Republic Act (RA) 9369 that would ensure the integrity of the automated elections in May 2010 have been enumerated by
Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today.

Gordon, author of RA 9369 or the amended Automated Elections System (AES) Law, issued the statement to allay fears that automated elections would equate to computerized cheating.

"Hindi tayo makakaabante sa bansa sapagkat kung manual voting na naman ang gagamitin, against ako dyan sapagkat may Ph.D na lahat yung nagbibilang dyan sa manual voting na lagging mayroong dayaan. Kaya itong automated elections na ginawa natin relies on being technology-neutral," he said.

Former Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Christian Monsod earlier warned against possible what he referred as "automated cheating" in the 2010 elections.

Monsod said the Precinct Counting Optical Scan, the ballot-based voting and counting system chosen by the Comelec, would not be transparent as it would place the election results in the hands of "software specialists" who could manipulate the votes.

Instead, he added, the Comelec should consider the Open Election System espoused by local information technology experts, which they claimed is more transparent.

Gordon said the law, which is technology-neutral, has mandated at least 16 "minimum system requirements" to ensure clean, honest and credible elections.

The minimum system requirements mandated by RA 9369 include adequate security against unauthorized access; accessibility to illiterates and disabled voters; vote tabulating program for election, referendum or plebiscite; accurate ballot counters; data retention provision; utilize or generate official ballots; and configure access control for sensitive system data and function.

It also mandates accuracy in recording and reading of votes as well as in the tabulation, consolidation/canvassing, electronic transmission, and storage of results; and error recovery in case of non-catastrophic failure of device; and system integrity which ensures physical stability and functioning of the vote recording and counting process.

RA 9369 requires a source code for the automated election system (AES) to be selected and shall be made available by the Comelec to all interested parties for their review.

The AES shall also include a continuity plan in case of a systems breakdown or any such eventuality which shall result in the delay, obstruction or non-performance of the electoral process.

Other safeguards include provisions for voter verified paper audit trail; system auditability to provide supporting documentation for verifying the correctness of reported election results; and to provide for the safekeeping, storing and archiving of physical or paper resource used in the election process.

The law also requires that the machines should provide the voter a system of verification to find out whether the machine has registered his choice; and a random manual audit be done in one precinct per congressional district randomly chosen by the Comelec in each province and city.

Gordon said 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

"Dahil sa may paper audit trail, pagka hindi tayo nagkaigihan dun sa lumalabas sa computer, bukod dun sa random check pwedeng magprotesta at buksan ulit yung balota at basahin yung balota," he said.

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