Two principal factors – the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the tremendous interest in President Trump’s reelection bid – caused a major expansion of the American voting system this year.
Millions of Americans opted to vote in advance and via mail-ballots to avoid the traditional mass gathering at voting centers on Election Day. Two days before the election on Tuesday, some 100 million had already sent in their votes by mail, out of the 150 million total votes expected.
In the previous presidential election of 2016, there were only 47 million early voters. The number of qualified voters has considerably increased since then, but more than this natural increase, the huge rise in voter turnout this year must be due to the many young, black, Latino, and other minority groups, matched by an equally huge turnout of Trump loyalists.
We may not have as big an election issue as President Trump and his policies, but we should start considering the solutions put in place by the Americans to meet the huge demands of this year’s election.
We too have a system for advanced voting in the Philippines. Under our Local Absentee Law, early voting is allowed for law enforcers, teachers, and media on duty on Election Day. Abroad, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are allowed to cast early votes in our Philippine embassies. They are allowed to vote for the positions of president, vice president, senators, and party-list representatives ahead of Election Day.
There is already a bill, House Bill 7572 filed by Marikina Rep. Stella Quimbo to allow senior citizens to vote by mail, to protect this specially vulnerable sector from COVID-19. In the US system, all qualified voters, not just senior citizens, are allowed to vote in advance, but this would require a big expansion of the present Philippine Comelec system, requiring additional personnel, infrastructure, and security.
Voting by mail would be an entirely new undertaking for our postal service in coordination with the Comelec. There would be huge problems of security. We already have cases of of fake ballots within the Comelec; we would surely have additional cases of fake ballots in the postal system.
Comelec Commissioner Rowena Guanzon reportedly supports mail voting for the 2022 national and local elections. “Look at the US and Korea’selections. Their mail voting works,”she said in her Twitter account Friday. It would probably similarly work here if we had the same security in place as in the US and Korea.
All things considered, the proposals for mail voting and for more advanced voting deserve utmost consideration in our greatly expanding election system in the Philippines.