Philippines’ First Automated Election

This coming May 2010, every Filipino will have their first time experience participating in an automated election here in the country.  This is a very significant milestone in the Philippines’ history given those long years of tedious manual election process that not only gives burden to our teachers and volunteers, but has also left doubtful and questionable election results.

Through the PCOS (Precinct Count Optical Scan System) machine, an automatic counting of votes will take place.  This won’t only make the task of our teachers lighter, but would also lessen massive cheating during election.  But, before anything else, we must know first how reliable this automated system is.  Below are important facts and details about Smartmatic’s PCOS machine.

Basic Functions

  • Takes a digital copy of the ballot and record it
  • Counts the number of votes automatically

Note: The number of voters per precinct is already known by the machine. (There are only 7 precincts (data) per machine.)


  • Speeds up election process
  • Lessens the doubt of the authenticity of the election results

Photo by Michael Sinjin Pineda


A lot of pessimists are raising their eyebrows and are asking questions on how reliable this automated system is.  Let’s check the following facts.

  • PCOS machine and ballots are precinct specific – For security purposes the machine unit won’t read ballots that are not listed for that specific precinct.
  • Ballots are equipped with security features – All ballots have unique bar codes and have ultraviolet ink (an invisible one) which will confirm its authenticity.
  • The Data inside the machine is secured – A PCOS is a stand-alone machine.  This means that it is not connected to a network.  A network connection only occurs for 5 minutes every time an important update is being sent to the main server.
  • 128 Bit Data Encryption – A 128 bit encryption means that there are 2 (raised to the power 128) – or 3.4 with 38 zeros after it – possible combinations that could access the data inside the machine.  In layman’s term, it will be almost to impossible for a hacker to penetrate the system since that number of combinations can’t be processed within 5 minutes (the length of time the machine is allowed to connect to a network).  This kind of data encryption is actually used by banks to maintain a 24/7 security to their automated teller machines.

Now that we already know how this automated system works, let’s proceed to the basic dos and don’ts in voting.

Rules in Voting

  • Do not overvote – The machine won’t count your votes if you select candidates greater than the expected number (i.e overvoting for President)
  • Undervoting is okay
  • Fully shade each oval – In shading the oval for the candidate of your choice, you must fill it at least 50% so that the system would recognize it.  If it’s less than 50%, then the machine will not recognize it and will consider the selection as nothing.
  • Don’t put unnecessary markings on the ballot


  • Precinct result is automatically transmitted to the Comelec website – This means that every time an update of votes will take place, the data will be automatically displayed to a web page that can be easily accessed by the public.  This way, everyone can tally votes simultaneously.
  • Initialization reports of votes are printed using a thermal paper – A thermal paper can last up to five years
  • The overall election process will only take place within 11 hours
  • PCOS Machine’s back-up battery will last from 14 to 16  hours -  This is an emergency procedure if in case a black out will occur.

After reading the above facts and guidelines, all we need to do now is to be more vigilant and let’s make sure that what the Comelec told us will come into realization.  Anyways, if you wanted to know more about the candidates who are running for the office this 2010 election, you might try to visit Political Arena.  Hope you learned something from this post.  Cheers!

About Empress

Empress is a tech enthusiast who loves to read and write. She founded Empress Content Writing & Digital Marketing Services to help small entrepreneurs grow their business.

15 thoughts on “Philippines’ First Automated Election

  1. Is PCOS connected to central server duting voting hours? So that when I ‘feed’ my ballot to the machine, the machine tells the central server that a voter did it and tally also my vote?


    After voting hours, when a button or whatever is pushed to transmit vote, the votes tally will not only go to town/city’s canvass center but goes to Comelec central server as well?

    This is a very informative post. Thanks for this! 🙂

  2. Nope. During the casting of votes, the machine is not connected to any server (or computer terminals). As what I mentioned above, the machine will only be connected to the main server for 5 minutes (I think it will depend on the incharge person when will he send the accumulated counts to update the main server, but Comelec stated that the number of times should be very minimal). I think it should be done after the casting of all votes per precinct.

  3. I don’t intend to be too rude with this, and I know it’s completely irrelevant but I will just say it anyway! Whhhhhaat the heck has Obama been smoking these days? There, I got it off my chest! 🙂

  4. Keep it up, I’m really digging these long posts, lately I have more and more time to read through your blog and I am just loving it!

  5. Pingback: undervoting
  6. Hi. I treasured to drop you a quick note to verbalize my thanks. I’ve been observing your blog for a month or so and have plucked up a heap of fabulous information as well as enjoyed the way you’ve structured your site. I am seeking to run my own blog however I think its too general and I would like to focus more on smaller topics.

  7. This is one technology that I would love to be able to use for myself. It’s definitely a cut above the rest. Your insight was what I needed. Thanks

  8. We must win big to conquer the cheating we’ve already discovered. It’s not new but what’s new is that were vigilant and are learning concerning this now instead of a couple months from now. they’ll be exposed for the cheaters these are, just as their bad campaigning has shown these individuals as liars and devoid of their own ideas. Now is not the time to slow down nevertheless rather to pile it on. It is any time to leave no doubt as to where the American persons stand.

  9. After all of the foul play and “miscounts” that have been seen in elections all over the world, an automated system is a scary idea in my opinion. It is opening the door for vote tampering, and that is going to lead to voters not trusting the system. I say take it back to punch cards, just improve the punch cards so we don’t see another “hanging chad” scenario like we did in the 2002 US presidential election.

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