Home > The Automated Election System > The promise and perils of automated elections

The promise and perils of automated elections

*Facts and figures on the Automated Election System from the Center for People Empowerment in Governance (CenPEG) and the Computer Professionals’ Union (CPU)

The Automated Election System (AES) promises modern democratic elections in the country with quicker counting that eliminates the conditions for wholesale cheating through the notorious dagdag-bawas.

    P7.2 billion Smartmatic-TIM contract
    82,200 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines
    1,671 unique ballots

What is ‘automated’ from the old manual system?

  • Voting remains manual, with voters writing their names and filling up ballots by hand
  • But vote-counting from the ballots is computerized, with PCOS machines counting and recording votes at the precinct level
  • Canvassing is also computerized, with recorded votes from precincts sent via Internet to servers for consolidation at municipal, provincial and national levels

1. Pre-election process

  • Inadequate testing of machines in actual field conditions
  • No real source code review
  • No plan for verifying program actually installed in the 82,200 PCOS machines
  • Manipulation of lists of voters, candidates lists and precincts/clustered precincts
  • Possible printing of excess ballots to be used for cheating
  • Security concerns in storage, packing and delivery of ballots as well as in deployment and testing/ sealing of PCOS machines

2. Election day voting vulnerabilities

  • Manipulation of results through compact flash (CF) cards used to configure each PCOS machine
  • Confusion from using a new, unfamiliar and more complicated system than in manual elections – ex. possible problems with various election paraphernalia
  • Smartmatic-TIM generates and hence knows the digital signatures/ passwords of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs)
  • No way to verify integrity of program installed in PCOS upon initialization
  • Problems with filling up long ballot, ballot jamming and misreading, machine breakdown
  • Power failure and/or communications breakdown

3. Vulnerabilities from canvassing to proclamation

  • Possible failure to generate or print election returns (ERs)
  • Automated dagdag-bawas in canvassing of ERs, statements of votes, certificates of canvass
  • ERs can be digitally signed and encrypted by BEIs and also others who know their passwords, creating the possibility of changing ERs; SOVs and COCs can be similarly altered
  • Security concerns regarding the servers consolidating votes n Power failure and/or communications breakdown
  • Unclear procedures in case of conflicting results, connectivity or transmission problems, hardware or software failure, and in adjudicating electoral protests in an automated

The conditions for disarray and conditions for fraud are there not just in the presidential elections but also in the other national positions (vice presidential, senatorial) and the local positions vital for the Arroyo circle’s efforts to remain in power.

Persistence of means of fraud: vote-buying, voter intimidation and harassment, sabotaging voters, flying voters, ballot-switching, spoiled ballots…

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