Four opportunities to check PCOS accuracy: all taken away by COMELEC

The Filipino voting public had four opportunities for checking the scanning accuracy of the PCOS machine, but the three were all taken away by COMELEC, while the fate of the fourth still hangs in the balance.

Acceptance testing by COMELEC

Everytime Smartmatic delivered a batch of machines, COMELEC should have tested the machines before accepting them, to screen out the lemons. After all, these machines were made in China in a hurry. But even if they were not. It is simple due diligence. The COMELEC specifications are clear in the contract, including the PCOS minimum accuracy rate of 99.995%, or a maximum error rate of .005%. Any machine that did not meet specs should have been returned for replacement. We lost this opportunity because the full results of the testing, if it was ever done by COMELEC at all, were not given to stakeholders like political parties, election watchdogs and the media.

Systest audit and source code review

One of the things Systest would have tested, because it is the heart of the ballot appreciation process, is the scanning accuracy of the PCOS. I had expected a certification from Systest that the PCOS, for instance, met all minimum functional requirements as specified in the Automated Election Law and the contract between COMELEC and Smartmatic. I had expected that the test procedures would be described in detail in the full report of Systest and the test results would be there too, for the scrutiny of all stakeholders. Finally, I had expected the Systest certifications and well as full report to be available to stakeholders like political parties, election watchdogs and the media. COMELEC claimed on Feb. 9 that Systest had finished its audit/review and given its certification, but released no proper Systest document or full report to back up its claim. We lost this opportunity because of the secrecy that surrounds the certifications and full report from Systest.

Voters verification that the PCOS correctly registered their choices

On election day itself, all voters would be in a position to check for themselves the accuracy of the PCOS, by observing whether their marks are properly interpreted by the machine. The PCOS was required by law to show voters their choices (that is, the names of those they voted for), so that they can verify if their choices were correctly registered on the machine. The PCOS, in fact, had this as a built-in feature, and it could show on its screen those choices. This was an excellect feature that empowered every voter to conduct a real-time audit of the accuracy of the machine. We lost this opportunity because COMELEC ordered Smartmatic to disable this feature.

Manual audit of the machine results

The ballots will be counted manually by an audit team, and this count compared with the machine count. Any discrepancy, after the manual count is double-checked, will mean an inaccurate scan by the PCOS, allowing us to actually measure its accuracy rate. We fear that this opportunity may be lost because COMELEC decided to conduct the manual audit of only 1.5% of precincts, and the machine winners may be proclaimed ation anyway, while the audit is still going on. If the machine winners are proclaimed while the audit is still going on, then the audit results won’t matter anymore. We all know how long election protests take to resolve, if they are ever resolved at all. Who would be interested in a futile exercise that is already moot and academic? The rush to proclaim within 48 hours (by May 13), is misplaced because the term of outgoing officials will end on June 30 yet. The manual audit can be given a June 22 deadline, the winners proclaimed on June 23, and still have one week to spare.

If 100% manual audit of UV marks is ok, why not 100% manual audit of ovals?

The question that bugs me is why would COMELEC plug every loophole to make sure that no test results from acceptance testing or the Systest audit/review can be used to question PCOS accuracy, that no inaccuracies are observable to voters on election day, and that when the inaccuracies are eventually discovered through a manual audit, it will be too late to correct them because the machine winners have been proclaimed.

When COMELEC found out that the ultraviolet security marks were misaligned, it ordered a 100% manual audit of every ballot before winners are proclaimed. COMELEC did so on its own, without any prodding.

If the ballot ovals are as misaligned as the ultraviolet security marks, by the same logic, the only solution is a 100% manual audit of every ballot before winners are proclaimed.

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