Got Inked

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Smiles at 10AM. Melted away an hour later.

6 hours under the heat of the summer sun. No bathroom breaks. The worst voting process I’ve been through since I turned 18.

A day before the May 2010 elections, our block got cut-off from the world. Okay. Not really. But Digitel subscribers had to deal with a week-long hiatus from the internet and from the phone.   It was a major Argh! moment for me. Of all the times… I mean, seriously? A day before elections when every Pinoy who has an online presence woud be going online? Apparently someone stole phone lines again. It’s the third time in three years. I was almost ready to wait for a month since that was how long it took them to fix the lines after Typhoon Ondoy and that time in 2008 when someone stole the phone lines.

It is a relief that after a week, we’re connected again.

So what happened a week ago? Not everyone in our family got to vote since some weren’t in the list. They were unable to vote in the last 2 election because they were either out of the country or had to man polling precints themselves.  My sister, who refused to sign a form the local Comelec branch wanted her to sign stating that she had not voted in past 2 elections when she did, was in the list of voters. Long story. Will post what happened that time when we went to the local Comelec branch to update our records soon. But they really should hire better encoders.

In the election prior to this, everything was a breeze. Because everyone in my family except me and my sister already have their voter’s id, we already have an idea of our precint number. My aunt, sister and I went to the polling place, the public school in our barangay. A bulletin board had posts of the precint numbers and their corresponding rooms. Since there wasn’t a line, I think we spent only 15 minutes in the polling place.

So we did not expect the hell we went through last May 10.

We were at the polling place a little after 9AM, we staggered out at almost 3PM. I came armed with a frozen bottle of water, ids, my voter’s id application receipt, a pen. Luckily my aunt brought an umbrella. Again they had the precint number and room assigned to it posted. We headed to the room. All rooms had very long lines snaking out of them.

What was different with this election from the last aside from being automated was that they grouped five precints into one and assigned them to a room and 1 PCOS machine.  From what I have heard our cluster and the one next to ours had close to 800 registered voters each. Twelve Board of Election Officers replaced by a PCOS machine. Is it worth it? Everyone in our line thinks not. And some are already thinking of abstaining in the next elections.

At 10 AM, everyone was still in good spirits. At 11 AM, when we noticed that our line was not moving, frustration began to seep in. At near noon, several other clusters had no more lines.  A neighbor kidded that he was close to yelling “bomb”.  Some of our neighbors went home after seeing our line. One, after lining up for a couple of hours, went home when she began to experience heart palpitations. Some of us were worried that after lining up for so long, , the machine would not count our votes due to some error or smudge on our paper.  Hands do get dirty from sweat and dust and condensation from drinks. We had our share of line cutters whose heads we promptly bit off. After lining up for close to 6 hours under the hot sun without having lunch and not being able to go to the bathroom, do they think we will let them cut in?

I thought of abandoning the line and going back at around 5PM when it’s not that hot anymore but decided it’s a bad idea since we would be up against mosquitoes then.

As with any time of need, we experienced niceness that day. A neighbor was kind enough to give us halo-halo. Someone offered the folding chair she brought to my aunt for her to sit on.

We learned later that the PCOS machine for our cluster broke down. Twice. We also learned that our BEI would let ten voters in at a time and wait for all ten to be through before they let another ten in.  Imagine if someone from a group of ten took thirty minutes to vote.  Speaking as someone who had manned a polling precint in the past and from common sense, the right thing to do would be to let someone in when someone comes out. Also, they should have positioned their table near or across the door so they could monitor the people coming in and out instead of having, I am guessing, the third member go out and check the line. Their table and the machine was at the back of the room. Maybe they were concerned about security, I don’t know.

There was a minor quarrel at one of the clusters though. Apparently, they issued numbers to people in line. Someone who got a number, decided to try some of the siomai for sale outside the school, came back very much later and wanted to bypass everyone else even if her number was called eons ago.

Close to 3PM, holding the “smartmatic” markers, I wondered if other pens or markers would void the ballot. When the machine displayed that my vote’s been counted, it was a relief. It took me less than a minute to fill up my ballot. Several long minutes more to get a purple thumb and have my pointer dressed in indelible ink. Apparently, our BEI’s are not that quick in scanning through the book of voters. Another thing that resulted in the long line. Tsk, tsk.

So next election, I will go to the polling place better prepared. Aside from the water and umbrella, i’m bringing lunch, snacks, a folding chair and a book. Laptop too, if only our public schools are equipped with wifi.

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