Votin’ (and NAMFRELin’) on Election Day

May 13, Election Day, started drizzly though still summery warm. I almost didn’t want to vote, given the dearth (in my opinion) of credible candidates. But being a NAMFREL volunteer prodded me to go out and participate in the electoral process. And so I set off to Fairview Elementary School, where I’m a registered voter.

The road leading to the school entrance was lined with candidate supporters giving out flyers and even sample ballots. I noticed that most of them were women and kids. (I wonder if that’s significant. Cheaper labor, maybe?)

A kid handing out flyers

A kid handing out flyers

Members of the "flyer brigade"

Members of the “flyer brigade”

flyer people 2

A sample ballot being handed out (with the candidates' names shaded)

A sample ballot being handed out (with the candidates’ names shaded)

Past the throng of flyer people, barangay tanods manned specific locations and directed people where to pass.

Barangay tanods at work

Barangay tanods (in orange vests) at work

One tanod stood next to a garbage bag. He encouraged people to throw the just-distributed flyers there to avoid littering the streets. (Elections are such a waste of precious paper!)

An early clean-up attempt

An early clean-up attempt

Inside the school, I was surprised to see so many people already. It was just around 8:05 in the morning. There was a PA system in the PPCRV area announcing names of people. Apparently, people who didn’t know their precinct numbers and where to vote sought help there. They submitted their names and PPCRV volunteers looked them up in their records, then told them which room and building to go to to cast their ballots.

I didn’t know my precinct number, and I thought of lining up there too. But the queue (if there was one) was long and disorderly. Some people in the crowd looked angry and confused, and I didn’t want to join in.

Instead, I found another area where two COMELEC people were stationed. They also helped voters locate their precincts.

The COMELEC help desk

The COMELEC help desk

Two COMELEC members sharing one master list of voters

Two COMELEC members sharing one master list of voters

The queues here were shorter and faster, but still, help was slow because the two COMELEC members shared only one master list of voters. There was an angry elderly voter who said his name was on the master list, but when he went to his designated voting room, his name wasn’t there. What the COMELEC person did was he signed a piece of paper indicating the voter’s name and precinct number; this piece of paper supposedly certified that the voter was indeed in the master list and that he should be allowed to vote. I don’t know if this system worked, but I sure hope it did. The elderly person seemed angry and really intent on exercising his right to suffrage. Bravo to him!

All around the school were signs and posters meant to guide the voters on what to do and where to go.

The list of voters outside each voting room was helpful, but the voter must know which room to go to in the first place

The list of voters outside each voting room was helpful, but the voter must know which room to go to in the first place

Precinct location board:. helpful in finding which school building the precincts are found

Precinct location board indicating the school building where the precincts were

Instructions in Filipino

Instructions in Filipino

Sign outside a room showing precinct numbers. The editor in me cringes every time I see "precinct" spelled incorrectly. It happens so very often.

Sign outside a room showing precinct numbers. I used to cringe every time I saw “precinct” misspelled, but I’ve seen it so often that now I don’t care anymore.

Once I knew my precinct number and its corresponding room, I went there right away. It was on the third floor of the Mathay Building. Usually, one had to stay in a “holding room” first before being allowed into the voting room itself. This happened if many voters were waiting their turn. In my case, I was able to go straight into the voting room because there were only a few voters in my precinct at that time.

Inside a holding room

Inside a crowded holding room

I had to wait for only about five minutes, and then I was given a ballot. I sat down and shaded the proper circles quickly. I only voted for ten candidates out of a total of more than twenty. I checked if the marks I made on one side of the ballot showed on the flip side. They didn’t, which was great.

My ballot was then inserted into the PCOS without any hitch. I noticed that the the number of ballots cast in the PCOS was 92, and after my ballot, it registered 93. There were a few seconds of waiting before the number changed. I asked the technician (who stood near the PCOS and assisted in the insertion of ballot) if I could snap a photo of the ballot count on the PCOS. He said “no,” as I expected. Pictures weren’t supposed to be taken inside the voting room, especially pictures of the ballot itself.

A BEI then placed indelible ink on my left forefinger, and I was done.

Voters' records inside the voting room

Voters’ records inside the voting room

I was fortunate in that I was able to vote quickly. In other rooms, there were long queues, some of them extending outside the holding rooms into the corridors and stairways. I went into another school building and saw even longer lines of voters.

Crowds of voters

Crowds of voters

The queues spilled into stairways and fire exits

The queues spilled out into stairways and fire exits

Some queues extended outside the building, where people had to wait under the heat of the sun

Some queues extended outside the building, where people had to wait under the heat of the sun

I heard this PPCRV volunteer radioing for help in organizing the queues

I heard this PPCRV volunteer radioing for help in organizing the queues

Waiting in line

Waiting in line

Queues everywhere

Queues everywhere

A huge crowd of voters, as early as 9 am. I bet the crowd would get bigger as the day progressed.

A huge crowd of voters, as early as 9 am. I bet the crowd would get bigger as the day progressed.

I went into some rooms and asked if the PCOS machines were working. A school staff said they were, though sometimes the PCOS didn’t “accept” the ballot or was slow. But all they had to do was to turn over the ballot and it would be inserted into the machine without any problem.

I also saw the principal making the rounds. I reintroduced myself as a NAMFREL volunteer, and asked her if they had any problems so far. She said “no, not yet.” It was still early in the day.

The school principal  busily making the rounds

The school principal (wearing white) busily making the rounds

As I left the school at around 9:30 am, I was dismayed at the sight of street litter from campaign flyers. This was so early in the day; I’m sure it would get much worse by the end of the voting period.

Street litter and litterers

Street litter and litterers

When I got home, I did a little experiment to test the “indelibility” of the ink on my forefinger. I cleaned up using nail polish remover. Some of the ink was removed, but not all.

Before and after cleaning out the "indelible" ink

Before and after cleaning out the “indelible” ink

And that ended the voting part of the day for me. Later on, after 5 pm, NAMFREL volunteers like me would observe the random manual audit as our final task.

I hope everything goes well 🙂

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