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Pollwatch

[Click here to see the diagram of Voting/Pollwatching Process]

           Vigilant citizens’ action is vital to achieve meaningful elections. Accredited citizen’s arms, therefore, should encourage as many citizens as possible to be involved in pollwatching.  Volunteers cannot guard the polls alone.  There is strength and safety in numbers.  All volunteers must adhere to the basic tenet of non-partisanship.
 
A pollwatcher must know his duties and responsibilities such as:

1. To establish rapport with the Board of Election Inspector (BEI),
 COMELEC representatives, and other pollwatchers, etc., with support papers to identify himself (proper ID and copy of COMELEC accreditation).
2. To bring things that he can use for recording incidents and anomalies, and things he can use in case of power interruptions.
3. Also, in order to carry out his duties and responsibilities as a pollwatcher, he must be well informed of the procedures and requirements before the voting begins which is at 7:00 a.m. and after the closing time which is at 3:00 p.m.

He must also be well-informed of the process of the counting of votes, seeing to it that the right procedure is observed until it is finished.  Then, he must see to it that corresponding documents are sealed and put in their proper places, and delivered to the concerned agencies, including the ballot box.

The pollwatcher has to be VIGILANT.  Whenever he observes anomaly during actual voting and counting of votes, he must call the attention of the BEI, and if necessary, he must request the BEI to refer the matter to the representatives from legal, para legal desk or COMELEC representatives.
 
PHASES OF POLLWATCHING

 The task of pollwatching may be easier to understand if it is divided into three phases :

Before Election Day
During Election Day (May 11, 1998)
Before the Voting (6:30 – 7:00 a.m.)
During the Voting (7:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.)
Counting of Votes (3:00 p.m. to completion)
After the Counting
After Election Day

Activities BEFORE Election Day

 The first task of a pollwatcher is to encourage as many citizens as possible to guard the polls with him.  The key message is that guarding the polls is the responsibility of all citizens.
 Attend the briefing to be conducted by the pollwatcher school chairperson (in this case, the PPCRV school chairperson) before Election Day.
 If possible, familiarize yourself with the Omnibus Election Code.
 Familiarize yourself with how cheating is done.
 
Activities DURING Election Day 

BEFORE the Voting
 Report to your post at 6:30 a.m. wearing your pollwatcher’s ID.  Check that you have with you the following forms and supplies:
a. Pollwatching Manual
b. Ballpen
c. Notebook or paper
d. Camera with film & flashbulb (if available)
e. Flashlights or candles (for afternoon/evening shift)

Present yourself to the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) Chairman.  Stay in the space provided for the reserved for watchers.  Do not talk with any BEI member (unless making a protest or challenge), nor with any other watcher or voter, in a manner that may disturb the proceedings.
Verify the quantity and serial numbers of the official ballots and election returns and the supply of indelible ink in the possession of the Board of Election Inspectors.
 
Bring to the attention of the BEI if:

  •  any election material is destroyed, substituted or taken away
  •  propaganda or campaign materials are inside the polling place or within 30 meters.  Even party watchers are not allowed to wear or display campaign materials.
  •  the ballot box is not opened and turned upside down to show that its two compartments are empty before being locked with three (3) padlocks.
  •  the official ballots are not wrapped and sealed, and contain writings or marks.
  •  the physical layout of the polling place does not allow voters to vote in privacy.

DURING the Voting
Bring to the attention of the BEI when:

  •  electioneering, campaigning or influencing of voters takes place inside the polling place or within 100 meters
  •  voters whose names do not appear in the certified list of voters (except those with court inclusion orders) are allowed to vote
  •  persons use the name of other persons in the list of voters
  •  a person whose finger is already stained with indelible ink is allowed o vote
  •  a voter is allowed to leave the polling place without his finger stained with indelible ink
  •  you have a reasonable ground to believe that a certain person is a flying voter

In this case, you may:

  • Request the BEI Chairperson to require the challenged voter to present his voter’s ID or voter’s affidavit.  Make sure that serial numbers of the IDs and affidavit are in order.
  •  Request the chairman to verify the voter’s signature through the records
  •  Make sure that the challenge is recorded regardless of what happens to the challenge form the poll clerk.  Get a certificate of challenge from the poll clerk.

Closing of Voting
 Be exceptionally vigilant when closing time is near because it is usually during this period when many flying voters will try to vote.
 Call the attention of the BEI when:

  •  Voting is not stopped at exactly 4:00 p.m. except for voters within 30 meters who can still cast their votes after the poll clerk has listed down their names and secured their signatures.
  •  If the chairman of the BEI does not publicly tear in half all unused ballots immediately after the close of voting.  The unused form ballots should not be thrown but kept later in the ballot box.

Counting of Votes
 Call the attention of the BEI when:

  •  A vote written on the ballot is not read
  •  A vote other than what is written is read
  •  A ballot which contains the name of the party is counted since block voting is no longer allowed
  •  Ballots for counting are substituted
  •  Omission, substitutions, and additions in the recording of Votes on the tally board and the election returns occur.
  •  There is a deliberate misrecording in the tally sheets as the votes are read.
  •  Votes reflected in the tally sheet are miscopied in the election returns.
  •  Votes credited to a candidate in the election returns are substituted with the votes of another candidate.
  •  There is deliberate distortion of the election entries in the election returns after the counting.
  •  There is insertion in any of the election returns after the counting.
  •  There is insertion in any of the election returns a blank sheet of paper.  This is done so that one or some of the election returns will be left blank or inaccurately reflected in the tally.  Inconsistent tallies confuse the totals and the blanks can be improperly filled in later.

AFTER the Counting
 This is a crucial stage in the election.  DO NOT LEAVE the premises until you have done the following:
1. Make sure that no alterations are made on the election returns after the results are proclaimed.  Corrections or alterations made before the proclamations should be initialled by all the members of the BEI.
2. Make sure that after the election returns are signed and thumbmarked in full view of the public by the members of the Board all of the six copies are sealed in your presence, placed in separate envelopes which are again sealed.
3. Observe how the envelopes containing the election returns are distributed. The six copies are supposed to be distributed and designated as follows:

1) 1st copy – Municipal Board of Canvassers
2) 2nd copy – Senate President
3) 3rd copy – COMELEC
4) 4th copy – Dominant Majority Party
5) 5th copy – Dominant Minority Party
6) 6th copy – NAMFREL
7) 7th copy – Ballot Box

1. When all the votes are counted, check the addition of votes. In the election return, the grand totals for each candidate must be written in figures, which must match each other.
 After all votes are read, the ballots are then placed in an envelope which is then signed, closed and deposited in the compartment for valid ballots.
2. Make sure that the information in the election returns is correct.
3. Thank the BEI for their cooperation.
4. Submit immediately your poll watchers report to your school chairperson.

When you have done the above:
 1. Accompany the two copies of election returns intended for the Municipal Board of Canvassers until they reach the proper office.  Be on the lookout for attempts to substitute or steal the return.  This is the most efficient way of cheating because in one stroke many votes can be changed.

 2. Watch carefully when the Election Registrar puts the election returns from various polling places in a special ballot box intended for delivery to the Provincial Election Supervisor.  MAKE SURE THE BALLOT BOX IS EMPTY before any return is placed therein.  Do not lose sight of that ballot box.
 
 3. In accompanying the ballot box containing the election returns as it is transported to the proper office, plan out in advance the vehicle and routes to be used.  Assign specific watchers for specific boxes to watch the returns in transit.
 
Activities AFTER Election Day

1. Watch the room where the election returns are kept and guard against any suspicious entry and exits.
2. Attend the canvassing.  Make sure that the election returns are read properly and conform to your copy.  It should start and go on continuously.

[Click here to see the diagram of Voting/Pollwatching Process]

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Christian Action for Peaceful and Meaningful Elections
Loyola School of Theology, Ateneo de Manila University, Quezon City
Tel. No.
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