Hallmark in History
Today, I just got to take part in one of the hallmarks of the history of this nation* – its first computerized election ever.
Two elections ago, I have began wondering when the powers that be up there would think of computerization. Somehow, for whatever reason, they seem content on keeping the manual system going. So, when the idea was finally given a green light almost a year ago, I said “Finally!”. Now, we can count on quicker poll results.
I thought it was as easy as using the same software and hardware as that which are used by other nations which have been using computerized election systems for years. Nope! It’s not like us using the same MS Excel for our spreadsheets as in any other country anywhere on earth. Turns out, we have to hire the right people to draft up our own software. Of course, costs that rise up to millions are expected. And the software designers and programmers team have to be holed up in some unspecified country outside for security reasons. I heard this team were treated like very special prisoners. They get VIP treatment and all luxuries, but they can never leave the premises until the project is done.
Like any “Firsts”, the system was, not surprisingly, beset with a few glitches. It’s a birth of something new for us after all. The birth pangs are expected. A few days to E-day, the flash drives malfunctioned which called for a total recall and replacement, after which succeeding tests proceeded smoothly thereafter.
Election day. A week before E-day, I had checked online my polling place and precinct number. Same place, same numbers.
“To (cast one’s) vote is not a right, it’s a responsibility.”
I have never missed voting before. I am not about to miss this historic one. Well, I just had to supervise and wait until the carpenter is done replacing my house’s front door before going to the polling place though.
At the polling place, I found my precinct and got my number, W-1. The line has around 60 people ahead of me. After about an hour, I got to get inside the precinct and did the process of voting. The shading of the small ovals takes an artist’s hand to do perfectly. A shaky hand will definitely cause a lot of spills – shading beyond the oval shapes. I did not take long to complete the whole sheet, voting for a President, Vice President, 12 Senators, the local Mayor, Vice Mayor and 8 Councilors. As I went to join the queue for the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan) machine, I heard from some of those ahead of me about their votes being invalidated because of extra shadings or accidental lines on the ballot sheet. Another complained of an invalidated vote because her ballot sheet has been sprinkled accidentally with droplets of water from her umbrella. Note that while I was in the queue outside (and until I finished voting), there was a continuous light shower outside. Thus a lot of people brought umbrellas with them. Yeah, I brought one too.
The Dirty Finger
My vote sheet went through the PCOS machine smoothly and I watched carefully, as intructed, for the number on the display to increment by 1. There, I was the 401st voter whose vote was successfully validated in that particular PCOS machine. The final step in the process is to affix my signature on a big logbook on which are listed all registered voters on our precinct, afterwhich the lady in charge of the logbook smeared my right forefinger with indelible ink. Like many previous instances, this is one those times when I am not ashamed to show a dirty finger, all smeared indigo.
Will the promise of quick poll results come true? We’ll know very soon. )