Mindanao voters think poll automation can't remove cheating: SWS survey

Posted at 03/17/09 3:17 PM

Voters in Mindanao may be impressed by the trial automated elections last year, but many still believe automation will not get rid of cheating, a Social Weather Stations survey (SWS) said.

In a survey conducted after the first trial of automated elections in August 2008, 84% of voters from the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said the election process improved, while only 12% said the process did not improve, and 3% said the process got worse.

A majority of voters (69%) also expressed approval for the proposed poll automation scheme in 2010, while only 8% disagreed, and 24% were undecided.

However, despite expressing approval for poll automations, many voters still believe automated elections will not remove cheating in 2010, with 22% saying there would be a "big possibility," 58% saying there would be "some possibility," and only 19% saying it was not possible.

In a statement, SWS President Dr. Mangar Mangahas clarified the data means that people appreciate how automated voting can improve the quality of elections "in ways that go beyond foiling election cheating." He said poll automation is only one of “steady” steps to “truly” cleaning up election cheating.

The Asia Foundation-sponsored survey had a total of 900 respondents, with 100 respondents each from Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, Sulu, Lanao del Sur, Marawi City, and Shariff Kabunsuan and 300 respondents from Maguindanao.

'Try it to believe it'

The SWS also noted an increase in voter confidence on automated elections once the voters had tried the machines for themselves. Voters were able to try out the Optical Mark Reader (OMR) system, where ballots would be fed into the machines, and the Direct Recording Equipment (DPE) system, where voters choose their candidates on a touch-screen computer.

Before trial poll automations, the SWS conducted a national survey from September to October 2008, which revealed voters were split almost down the middle when it came to poll automations. The survey showed that 55% said poll automations would improve elections and 42% said it would not or that it would make elections worse.

'Cheating down in 2007'

An SWS post-election nationwide survey in June 2007, meanwhile, showed that less and less voters see "election irregularities" like vote-buying, cheating in vote-counting, flying voters, and harassment of voters.

In the case of vote-buying, for example, witness reports fell from 18% in 2004 to 13% in 2007, and 41% were sure it did not happen in their area, 23% were not sure, while 23% said they only heard about it.

"The declines in irregularities over 2001 to 2007 are good to see, but no cause for complacency, for even small impurities in a system can cause great harm," Mangahas said in his report.

For cheating in vote counting, 59% were sure it did not happen in their area, 24% were unsure, 15% heard about incidents, and only 2% said they actually saw it. Further, a majority (62%) said there were no flying voters in their area, 23% were unsure, 12% heard about it, and 2% witnessed incidents. There were also less voter harassment cases perceived by voters in 2007, with 67% saying there was none in their area, 22% were unsure, 9% heard about it, and 2% witnessed it.