QUEZON CITY, September 21, 2021 - VoteReportPH, an alliance of ICT organizations and individuals whose aim is to engage the ICT community to participate in the electoral process, joins the the chorus of individuals and organizations from various sectors to request the extension of voter registration beyond the September 30, 2021 deadline. The Philippines has been wading through the murky waters of the COVID-19 pandemic for more than a year and a half now with seemingly no end in sight, and several iterations of heightened quarantines and lockdowns in attempts to limit the spread of the disease have hampered the mobility of many citizens across the country. These citizens include potential voters - whether new ones or those who wish to reactivate their voter status and/or transfer to another voting precinct - who direly want to participate in next year’s elections as they have acknowledged the magnitude a change of national and local leadership would bring to our country.
While the COMELEC has done its best to accommodate them without moving the deadline, with the expanded venues for registration and working hours, reports on the ground point to the fact that this is simply not enough to cover as many people who want to register as possible. In particular, the observation of health and safety protocols by limiting the number of people that can congregate in one place which forces registration venues to limit the number of people that can be served per day. This negates the gain that can be achieved by increased number of hours and increased number of places for the registration process.
In addition, since the level of lockdown is asymmetrical across the nation, there are people living in areas with stricter mobility parameters who are not able to go out to register no matter how badly they want to. That said, staying the course would leave possibly millions of potential voters disenfranchised in arguably one of the most important editions of the exercise of voting rights in the country. Apart from disenfranchising potential voters, the current period and practice would force people to actually unnecessarily congregate to the point of possibly breaking safety protocols thereby exposing them to the risk of COVID-19 infection. Additional days, even up to a month, of registration will significantly and definitely help address the conundrum of disenfranchisement and reduce the rate of infections. It will help decongest registration venues by providing registrants several more days when they could schedule their registration.
In addition to extending the deadline for voter registration, the VoteReportPH alliance also proposes to COMELEC to leverage existing efforts by civic organizations to intensify voter registration. There are a lot of organizations, VoteReportPH included, who have been implementing activities that hope to assist in the cause of voter registration. VoteReportPH also proposes to leverage ICT technologies and expertise to come up with ways to register voters without having to go to physical venues.
COMELEC has already been utilizing ICT platforms to aid voter registration, particularly of note is the online voter record reactivation process where those who avail of this need not be physically present in registration centers. If a similar effort, probably in some other form, can be extended to other aspects of voter registration, especially those that cater to first time voters, it is posited that voter registration can be implemented with minimal worries regarding the safety of both registrants and COMELEC personnel.