Any used buyer vote counting machines?
Nearly 180,000 of them are up for grabs, according to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), which is offering the devices to other government agencies willing to reuse them.
“We are inviting other agencies such as the DepEd (Department of Education), the PRC (Professional Regulation Commission) or others in the hope that their experienced IT personnel can think of ways in which these machines can be used again,” he said Comelec Chairman George Garcia on Friday.
Garcia was referring to two types of machines – optical precinct counting scanners (PCOS) and vote counting machines (VCMs) – both supplied by Smartmatic Corp.
About 80,000 PCOS units used in the 2010 and 2013 elections, and about 97,000 VCMs used in the 2016, 2019 and 2022 elections were stored at the Comelec warehouse in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The head of the electoral body suggested using old voting machines, possibly to check school tests or tabulate scores.
“We can’t use them anymore and they’re hard to ship… so we thought maybe they could be useful in schools or for other uses. We are open (to that) instead of just wasting them,” Garcia told reporters.
He raised these options while noting that the old VCMs had already become “dangerous to use” after some of the machines malfunctioned when tested in three villages for the October 30 barangay and youth council elections. “Some overheated, some had paper jams. But others just stopped working altogether,” he said. “That’s why we did pilot tests to show that they are already inaccurate and ineffective.”
The government spent at least P7.2 billion for the rental of PCOS machines, and another P2.2 billion for VCMs alone in 2016. The electoral body also financed their remodeling.
As Comelec looks for ways to get rid of old machines, its transition to a new automated voting system called FASTrAC is underway.
Only three companies, including Smartmatic, have so far acquired bidding documents for the lease of FASTrAC, or “Full Automation System with Audit/Count Transparency), which will be used in the 2025 surveys.
“We hope to receive more than five [bidders] to participate. It’s better for the commission if we have more options, especially now that there are a lot of new technologies when it comes to election machines,” Garcia said.
Based on a Comelec bulletin, the winning bidder of the P18.8 billion contract is expected to be able to provide the following: 110,000 automated counting machines, 104,345 voting machines, ballots for verification, 2,200 “laptop/system server printer of consolidated fundraising (and peripherals) and software” for cities, municipalities and regions.
Garcia said election watchdogs recommended the use of barcodes that can be easily scanned, as well as screens that could show photos of the ballots once they are placed in the ballot boxes.
The research body plans to open bids for the new machines on Nov. 28 to determine which company would qualify, he said. The procurement of the new voting system began earlier this month, despite a pending disqualification case filed against Smartmatic.
Trio Verdade e Transparência (TNTrio), a group led by former Information and Communications Technology Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr., filed three petitions this year questioning UK-based Smartmatic’s eligibility to once again become a supplier of systems in the next elections.
According to Garcia, the Comelec meeting en banc could make a decision on the petitions by next week.