The Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Monday said it expected a slow and low turnout of new voters who will register for the 2022 national elections.
The COVID-19 pandemic, the poll body said, is a huge factor in the expected turnout.
Comelec spokesperson James Jimenez noted that the voter registration outcome since its resumption is currently low. So far, the poll body has recorded at least 250,000 applicants nationwide.
“The numbers we see are quite low and that’s expected because we still of in pandemic. In the last three to four weeks, we are lagging by less than 250,000 nationwide. Previously, during pre-COVID, that number was only for the National Capital Region,” Jimenez said.
The poll body expects the number to pick up as the country slowly eases the quarantine restrictions.
“We have a long way to go, but we expect the number of registrants to reach about four million by the end of registration,” Jimenez stated.
In a related development, Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, through House Bill 2839, on Monday urged the Congress to allow senior citizens (SC) and persons with disabilities (PWD) to vote seven days earlier than the Election day set on 9 May 2022.
If this is enacted, SC and PWD will be allowed to cast their votes from 2 to 8 May. They can also vote on the actual polling day if they would want to.
“There will be social distancing during the (early) voting for seniors and PWD and it will not be as crowded as the regular election day,” he said.
Asked by Daily Tribune how these early votes can be protected from fraud, Rodriguez said the watchers who witnessed the actual voting shall seal and sign the boxes of the ballots which will be opened after the voting on the regular election day.
“The Committee on Suffrage has already approved our substitute bill and is now at the Appropriations Committee for its budgetary provision. We hope that Congress could approve the bill in time for its implementation for the next combined presidential-congressional-local elections in May 2022,” Rodriguez said.
The bill noted that when the United States enforced early voting, it marked an increase in turnout as made the process easier for people. It is also advocated by voting rights groups saying that it provides “significantly more time to complete their ballots or go to the polls.”
“Research shows that in the 24 US states with no-excuse absentee voting, turnout increased in 2004 by 6.7 percent, whereas it increased by 6.2 percent for other states. In the 11 states that had early voting in 2002 and 2004, turnout increased by an average of 7.2 percent as opposed to 6.2 percent in states without early voting,”
The Cagayan de Oro lawmaker said the Comelec will be tasked to designate polling facilities that are “safe, highly accessible and fitted with the necessary communication, visual and physical aids” for the vulnerable.
with MICHELLE GUILLANG