My first E-lections

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thumbprintBy Patricia Vega

Aside from deciding which candidates to vote for, I’ve never really given much thought to the elections. But with all the fuss (and buzz) about the election automation, I actually did my homework. I watched the video, studied the sample ballot, and looked up my name in the online precinct finder. Disenfranchisement was not an option.

So by 6:30AM on May 10, all five voters in my household were up, having breakfast and mildly distracted by the “special effects” trotted out by the election coverage shows. The plan was to get to the polling center early.

As it turned out, a lot of people had the same idea. On our way to San Beda Alabang – we live in the neighboring village – we passed by jeepneys packed with voters from the nearby sitios. By 7:15AM, all parking slots were taken, so we had to park a couple of meters away from the campus entrance, and then find our way to the gym.

Makeshift polling booths were set up in the center of the gym. Hundreds of people were already inside. It looked chaotic, but we found out soon enough that the precinct clusters were arranged clockwise. Our cluster was at the far end, and there was a little line forming in front of the booth. We were given numbers – mine was #38. Not bad, I thought, as we began our wait.

In terms of carrying capacity, the gym was more than enough to accommodate the early onslaught of voters. (In terms of comfort, not so much.) It relied a lot on natural light and ventilation. (The sun’s heat was beating on the windows, and a bare minimum of wall fans kept the air circulating). There were no seats. (Everyone had to stand in line).

Voting officially began a few minutes past eight – the PPCRV volunteer assured us that it was because the PCOS machine was undergoing a few more routine tests. By then, the line was longer, and more people were getting restless – myself included. I itched to tweet, but I read that mobile phones were forbidden, so I left mine at home. Instead, I amused myself by picking out voters wearing their political affiliations on their sleeve, or as the case may be, their wrist. I spotted a number of Yellows and Greens, with the occasional Orange thrown in.

The line was moving slowly but surely. The volunteers reminded everyone that senior citizens, pregnant women, and persons with disabilities were given priority. (My mom was suddenly grateful she applied for a senior-citizen card, while my sister – newly recovered from a nasty sprain – rued the fact that she left her ankle brace and cane at home). Regular people like myself had to wait a little bit more.

Apparently the hold-up was in voter verification, which took some time, despite having three assigned people to the task. When they pulled out my file, it had one document missing. My entire family had the same problem, so we assumed it was because we had recently transferred voting precincts, but I asked anyway. The assigned teacher had no idea why the file was incomplete, but she improvised with a blank piece of paper, which she completed and attached to my file. I took special care with my fingerprints – I didn’t want the ballot smudged with dark ink.

After verification, I had to wait until a voter finished and left the polling booth before receiving my ballot. There were never more than five voters filling up ballots inside the polling area. Perhaps it had something to do with the absolute lack of chairs inside – I’ll never know.

Voting itself was anti-climactic. I made a list and checked it twice, so when it was my turn to cast a vote, I just hunched over the table and shaded accordingly. My hand was steady, there were no last minute changes. I fed my ballot into the PCOS machine, and “Congratulations!” Vote number 52 was cast, and it took approximately two hours.

(When I got home, the first thing I did was update my social networks. That took approximately ten seconds).

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