Cleansing the Computerized Voters List (CVL)

by Eric Jude O. Alvia, NAMFREL Secretary General

from NAMFREL Election Monitor Vol.2, No.17

A forum was conducted by the Comelec - Election and Barangay Affairs Department (EBAD) on “Cleansing the Computerized Voters’ List” on July 11, 2011. Four major concerns were cited by COMELEC on assessing the quality of the voters registry. These are: 1) Multiple registrants, 2) Deceased registered voters still in the list, 3) Illegal registrants such as minors or non/illegible-residents, and 4) Missing names in the CVL.

Biometrics at the forefront

Currently, the problem on multiple registrants is being addressed through the poll body’s biometric-capture voters registration program which ends in October 2012. The voters registry generated will then be sifted for multiple entries by subjecting it to a test using an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS).

Among the causes cited for the multiple registration problems are intentional registration, inducement by local & other officials, the voters' transfer of residence, and incorrect demographic information such as the use of the same address by various individual registrants. Remedial measures adopted to address these concerns include: 1) the adoption of the AFIS, 2) improvement of stakeholders vigilance on fraudulent registration, and 3) intensifying deterrence of fraudulent registration through a renewed information campaign.

The biometric-capture registration program has been adopted and implemented by the Comelec in the past years but was plagued by controversy, from questionable bidding-procurement, improper project implementation, to spotty results (read the article on biometrics registration in the next issue). The latest registration program seeks to make a clean break from these unfavorable experience.

Other factors unaddressed

However, the round table-discussion failed to convincingly address purging the CVL of deceased, illegal, or missing persons. Factors attributed by Comelec to the presence of deceased registered voters are: 1) the nonsubmission or the lack of coordination in accessing the list of deceased by the Local Civil Registrar (LCR) to the Office of the Election Officer (OEO), 2) relatives who do not report the death of family members, and 3) the death is registered in a city/municipality other than the place where the deceased was a registered voter

So far an ad-hoc, unsystematic and crude manner of cleansing based on a submitted list of names and reports from election watchdogs, is one of those attempts being adopted.

Missing names in the lists has been a perennial election day problem leading to voter disenfranchisement. Causes attributed by Comelec to these problems are: 1) deactivation due to the failure of the registered voter to vote in the preceding two consecutive regular elections, 2) voter's name has been deleted for having double/multiple registration records, and 3) the voters' reluctance to locate their designated precinct assignment. Solutions being explored by Comelec and some stakeholders to address these problems include: 1) posting of
certified list of voters ninety (90) days before election day, 2) an online precinct finder, 3) distribution of the voter information sheet (30 days before election), 4) help desks set up by the accredited citizens arms, and 5) eliciting voters vigilance.

However, the manner of delisting/deactivating voters from the list for failure to vote in two successive elections is unique to the Philippines. This practice results to confusion and chaos at the voting centers on election day. The voters end up burdened with unnecessary and tedious procedures of re-registration by submitting through inclusion and exclusion proceedings only when the local Election Registration Board (ERB) convenes. A review of these procedures and requirements and the corresponding legislative amendments may be necessary to improve and enhance access to voting.

Inconsistent CVL data

The presentation on updates to the CVL data revealed some inconsistencies. Comelec reported canceling 6.9 million voters from the list in the period between the May 10, 2010 National Elections and the October 25, 2010 Barangay & SK Elections. However, the Comelec data of 4 million new registrants for the Barangay & SK Elections during its registration campaign is less than the 5.2 million calculated new registrants if the latest CVL data is to be considered.

Lack of transparency in accessing CVL data

Another concern raised by NAMFREL during the forum was the Comelec's refusal to publish the list and to provide copies to election watchdogs at a cost of Php 15 pesos per precinct (even for a soft copy). This lack of transparency and posting hurdles to access the list undermines the confidence of the voting public in the CVLs integrity and contributes to disenfranchisement of voters.

The current efforts to clean the voters’ list are inefficient and ineffective. Hopefully, legislation filed mid-July by Sen. Manuel Lapid in the Senate (SB 1030 Biometrics Bill) mandating biometric data capture for all voter registrants and the utilization of its database to cleanse the voters list would provide a solution. The Senate Bill proposes an overhaul of the voters list through compulsory voter re-registration by the use of biometrics devices.

To arrive at a much sought after solution, a new general registration has to be conducted months prior to the 2013 elections and consider a shift from an “opt-in” to a “state-initiated” registration. It may also be advantageous for the Comelec to consider joining the consortium of government agencies included in the recently issued “Mulitiple Identity System” card to allow this shift.

Finally, to fully complement the proposed biometrics law, there is a need to amend the Voters Registration Law (RA 8189) and the Overseas Absentee Voters Act (RA 9189), which could allow online registration and possibly in the near future, voting.

Updates on the List of Registered Voters & Cleansing of the CVL (as of July 11, 2011)
Registered voters: 52,720,603
Registered voters with biometrics: 34,938,758
Registered voters without biometrics: 15,823,342
Double/multiple entries based on AFIS results – 1,021,154
With “999” AFIS findings – 705,916
Less than “999” but verified by ERSD fingerprint examiner to be double/multiple registrants – 315,238
Records deleted – 360,049 (per ERB Aug. 2010)

Unaccounted for – 1,958,503

Deactivated and cancelled voters since the start of partial biometrics & AFIS
Deactivated – 6,405,455
5,466,252 – deactivated before 05/10/10 NLE (Jan. 2010 ERB)
939,203 – deactivated before 10/25/10 BSKE (Aug. 2010 ERB)

Due to: Death
97,255 – before 05/10/10 NLE
333,415 – before 10/25/10 BSKE

Due to: Double entries
32,281 -before 05/10/10 NLE
91,210 - before 10/25/10 BSKE

(Source: Comelec)