My May 2013 National and Local Elections experience is far more different from my usual election day experience. I have been voting for the past 10 years, and never did I let a chance pass of not going to the precinct and not exercise my right of suffrage. This year was different though because I had to work, yes work, as in, I needed to be in the precinct for the whole duration of the election day. My cousin, who is running for Mayor asked me to be one of his watchers and I cannot say “NO” to him. Three years ago, I did him a favor, I was the one who stayed up all night to wait for all the PCOS MACHINES to transmit its election returns at the Municipal Hall to make sure that there was no “hocus-pocus” thing to happen.
But this year, it was different because I needed to attend a whole day briefing together with all the other watchers for each precinct in our town. Aside from that, 4 days before the Election Day, we needed to be at our designated precincts to be with the BEIs and watch them while they are doing the “Final Testing and Sealing” of the PCOS Machines. We were given 10 sample ballots to try to fill it up and vote for different candidates and check if the PCOS Machine really works. I even asked the BEI to vote for 13 Senators so that we can ensure that the PCOS Machine will not record or count it as additional vote for those Senators because it is INVALID. We made a manual counting of the 10 sample ballots that we have filled up and luckily, the machine works perfectly.
On May 13, 2013, the Election Day, the people went in their respective precincts early. Early means that they arrive at the school at exactly 7 am in the morning. While we started our day at 6 am. When I arrived at my precinct together with my co-watcher, I immediately asked the BEI to prepare and set-up all the things that we needed so that by 7am we are already prepared and that we can start voting. I was the first one to cast my votes and yes, it was so easy.
A lot of voters arrived at around 9 am to 12 noon and it was a hassle. Some cannot wait for their turn and others are so stubborn. Sometimes I want to scold them and sometimes I just laugh it off. Senior Citizen and pregnant women are our priority and we have an express lane for them.
I think the problem that we have encountered why a lot of people/voters have waited for a long time is that because some of the older people didn’t know what to do. We have encountered a voter who shaded all the Senators in the Ballot, the 3rd member(there were 5 people in our precinct aside from the watchers, they are the BEI, Poll Clerk, 3rd member, and 2 support staff) is the one who assisted the people who don’t know or who doesn’t understand what they needed to do with their ballots. The main problem with the automated elections was that the people who are uneducated didn’t know what to do. Some cannot read, and they were not listed as illiterate. Some voters don’t know that they need to vote only for 12 Senators, 1 Party list, 1 governor, 1 vice-governor, 1 congressman, 2 board members, 1 mayor, 1 vice-mayor and 8 councilors. And some has shaky hands that they asked for help from us (which of course, cannot help them because we are not allowed to go near them). And even though some of these voters have brought their kodigos’ (list of candidates to vote for) they still asked for help.
At around 3pm, we don’t have any more voters coming in our precinct. Yeah, maybe they do not know that they can still vote until 7pm that day. But before we closed our precinct, I called my brother to vote. He was hesitant at first but I told him that he needed to do his right! He needed to choose the people who will lead our nation into the right way. Indeed, he listened to me and there he was, our last voter before we close our precinct.
When the voting precinct is closed already, we waited for the PCOS Machine to calculate or tabulate the votes on its own and after counting, we waited for the Election Returns that it will be printing. Luckily, we finished at around 8pm. But it was so hardduring the transmission, so our technician needed to bring the PCOS Machine to our municipal hall and have it transmit the votes there together with our BEI. We finished our work at around 11pm, not bad compared to the not automated election back then where we manually count the votes.
All in all, my experience was GREAT! I mean, it is not bad to be involved once in a while. We get to learn a lot of new things that we don’t expect we will encounter. I met a lot of my high school friends who happened to be in the same precinct as mine.