Both houses of Congress approved the common version of the supplemental budget for election automation as is. It meant that there is no need for a bicameral committee to thresh out any difference. It is now set to be signed into law by president Macapagal-Arroyo alongside the 2009 general appropriation budget.
It is now incumbent on the Commission on Elections to implement the full automation of the 2010 elections as recommended by the Comelec Advisory Council on Automation. There is now no more major obstacle to having relatively fast, accurate, and less troublesome voting, counting, and canvassing process.
What remains is the skepticism, doubt, fear, and anxiety of many that election automation will also bring with it automated cheating or that the cheaters will only be adjusting their operations to suit the new technology. There is also the various attempts by cheaters under the manual system to stop, limit or otherwise cast doubt on the implementation of automated elections.
Of course, it must be made clear at the outset that automation is not the full answer to election cheating. The real guardians of the ballot are the voters themselves, the election administrator, and the fool-proof election process design.
What election automation can do is to narrow the window for cheating by limiting human intervention in the election process, limiting the time from the act of voting to the act of proclamation, and by instituting secure procedures for the whole system. It will also have auditing capability to follow the cheating trail, if any, and contingency procedures to handle breakdowns in the system. However, the interesting feature of the system is its newness–the cheaters may not have the time to discover any possible loophole in the system.
There are already attempts to subvert the automated system. There will be more in the future. Citizens should not let their guard down. Whether it is an automated system or not, the defense of the right of suffrage requires citizen participation–from voting to monitoring to voter education.