Were the automated polls a success?
July 19, 2016
By Lito Averia / Manila Times
Companies engaging in projects identify factors that can be measured in order to assess the success or failure of a project. The factors are often referred to as key results areas. Along with it is a set of key results index.
The same should be true with assessing the performance of the automated election system (AES). There should be a set of measurable factors in order to come up with an objective assessment.
Fortunately, the Election Automation Law or Republic Act No. 8436 as amended by Republic Act No. 9369, identifies certain factors:
Ensure secrecy and sanctity of the ballot
The process is transparent and credible
The results shall be fast and reflective of the genuine will of the people
The AES must perform properly, securely, and accurately
The protection of the secrecy and sanctity of the ballot is not totally a technology matter. There were reported instances of breach of secrecy and sanctity of the ballot such as the Board of Election Inspectors inserting the voters’ ballots (instead of the voters doing it themselves), partisan watchers providing assistance to voters, voters seated too close to each other exposing their choices, a watcher from a political party shading the ballot for a voter, and unidentified civilians coaching voters.
Was the process transparent? No one ever saw how the vote counting machine (PCOS/VCM) assessed the marks on his ballot or saw how his vote was recorded or saw if his vote was counted or saw how the election return (ER) was generated and transmitted. At the canvassing centers, no voter saw how the ERs were received and processed.
Receipt of the ERs by stakeholders, too, was not quite transparent. While the ERs received via the transparency server bore time stamps and PCOS/VCM IDs, the transmission related data was not received – no IP address, no SIM card phone number or other source identifying marks. The recipients were not quite sure of the source of the transmission.
Credibility of the process and the results of the elections came under attack when Smartmatic’s Mr. Marlon Garcia, without the proper authority from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) En Banc, interfered with the operations of the transparency server and installed a program supposedly to correct the display of the Spanish letter “ñ” that appeared in some of the candidates’ names as a “?”. Of course, the consolidation reports generated by recipients were unofficial, but the ERs received by the transparency server were official and the transparency server is publicly seen as an official part of the AES.
Receipt of ERs was fast. By 11:59:59 PM of May 9, 2016, 76,520 ERs or 81.62% of expected ERs had already been received. At 11:59:59 PM of May 10, 2016, 94.63% of ERs had been received. Ten (10) days after elections, twelve winning Senators had been proclaimed winners. By May 30, 2016, Congress in joint session had proclaimed the winners of the presidential and vice presidential contests.
One factor not specifically defined in the election law is completeness of the results. But it is the principle in any democratic election that all votes matter and all votes must be counted. Before the elections, the Comelec was looking at 90% transmission of results knowing that in 2010 only about 92% of ERs were transmitted and in 2013, only a little over 76% of ERs were received. As at 9:03:00 AM of May 10, 2016, the target of 90% transmission had been surpassed. By May 26, 2016 96.69% of ERs had been received.
Are the results reflective of the will of the people? The incursion into the AES by Smartmatic’s Garcia raised doubts on the integrity and credibility of the election results. Allegations of election results manipulation had been raised.
Did the system perform properly? Malfunctions were reported but only a few PCOS/VCM had to be replaced. Operations in the other PCOS/VCM were recovered, but some after two or three hours. There are no reported statistics, but some voters simply gave up their opportunity to vote after the long wait. There were reports that some thirty CCS laptops had malfunctioned.
Did the system perform securely? Smartmatic’s Garcia’s unilateral action proved that any insider can come in, break through the security protocol, and interfere with the AES.
Did the system perform accurately? Initial results of the random manual audit indicate that the vote counting machine accuracy is at 99.884% which is below the 99.995% set by the poll body. The 99.995% accuracy rating translates to one error mark for every 20,000 marks. The 99.884% rating translates to twenty-three error marks.