THE Philippine election system, to put it simply, consists of the following parts: 1) the voting and vote counting at the voting precincts; 2) the conveyance of vote counting results to a vote count consolidation center in the city or municipality; 3) the consolidation of vote counts from the various voting precincts within the city or municipality; 4) the conveyance of the consolidated votes in the city or municipality to the provincial consolidation center; 5) the aggregation of the consolidated vote counts from all cities and municipalities within the province; 6) the conveyance of the consolidated votes at the provincial level to the national consolidation center; and finally, 7) the consolidation of the provincial consolidated votes at the national level.

Of course, the counting of votes from overseas as well as local absentee voting and for party-list are considered in the whole process.

Preparations are made prior to the holding of an election and this include, among other things, the identification and definition of the various contests at the city or municipal, provincial and national level, and that ballot preparation and printing, and the certificates of candidacies for the various positions are received and processed. Then, there is the matter of logistics that covers the delivery of the various election materials and reverse logistics that cover the retrieval of the various election materials. These preparatory activities fall within the process of election management.

As can be gleaned from the above description, the election subsystems are: 1) election management; 2) voting and vote counting; 3) transmission of vote counts and aggregated results; and 4) consolidation of the vote counts in a ladderized manner.

Prior to the automation of elections, the country had a manual election system.

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At the voting, voters wrote the names of the candidates of their choice for the various positions on a ballot, and this ballot is dropped into the ballot box. At the counting of votes, ballots are read and appreciated guided by a set of rules as prescribed in the Omnibus Election Code. Vote recording is public, where the votes are recorded on the tally board and the tally sheet for all watchers and observers to see. After the last ballot has been read, all votes per candidate in each position are counted and recorded. Then the election return is finalized by election workers by affixing their signatures. The election returns are then transported and delivered to the city or municipal board of canvassers for consolidation of the precinct-level vote counts.

At the city or municipal canvassing center, the voting precinct vote counts are recorded on a publicly viewable canvass board and a canvass form. After the last precinct-level vote count has been recorded, all votes per candidate, local and national, are summed up. The city/municipal canvass report is finalized by the members of the board of canvassers. The aggregated votes at the city or the municipality form the basis for proclaiming the winners of the city, including the city legislative district, if any, or municipal contests. The canvass report is then transported and delivered to the provincial board of canvassers.

At the provincial canvassing center, the city or municipal aggregated votes for the provincial, including legislative district, and national contests are recorded on a canvass board and a canvass form. After the last city/or municipal consolidated results have been recorded, the votes per candidate per provincial and national contests are summed up. The provincial canvass report is finalized by the members of the board of canvassers. The aggregated votes at the provincial level form the basis for proclaiming the winners of the province, including legislative district, if any, contests. The canvass report is then transported and delivered to the national board of canvassers: to Congress in joint session and acting as the national board of canvassers for the positions of president and vice president, and to the Commission on Elections acting as the national board of canvassers for the positions of senator and party-list representative.

At the respective national board of canvassers, the consolidated vote counts from each province are recorded on a publicly viewable canvassing board and canvass form. After the last provincial aggregated results have been recorded, the aggregated votes per candidate per national contest are summed up. The aggregated vote counts form the basis for proclaiming the winners of the national contests.

As can be seen from the above description, the manual election system is the most transparent. The processes of vote recording, counting and consolidation are publicly observable.

With the automation of the elections, the processes of vote recording, counting and consolidation have been hidden inside the machines and no one can see or observe how the votes are recorded, counted and consolidated.

One has to understand the above-described processes, and the rules that go with them, to design an automated election system. It should be noted that automation does not imply computerizing all processes and components. Some parts may be done manually.

The proposed hybrid election system aims to bring transparency back to Philippine elections. Voting will be done manually. Recording and counting of the votes will be done using electronic devices. The transmission of the vote counts and consolidation of votes at the various levels will be done electronically.

The proposed hybrid election system has met opposition due to the manual voting and vote counting process involved. But can the proposed system be improved? This we shall explore in the next column by describing an automated election system that uses a ballot-making device.