Comelec eyes 1M registrants for overseas voting
SAN FRANCISCO—The Philippines hopes that one million Filipinos abroad will register for Overseas Absentee Voting, the Commission on Elections said.
Currently, the number of registrants is 351,273, Comelec Commissioners Lucenito Tagle and Christian Robert Lim said during a meeting with the Filipino American community in the San Francisco Bay Area on October 5. The meeting was held at the Social Hall of the Philippine Center on Sutter Street in San Francisco.
Consul General Marciano A. Paynor, Jr., opening the evening’s proceedings, said that during last year’s presidential elections, 41,512 Filipinos registered for OAV in the US and 12,554 actually voted.
He cited the following statistics in describing the level of participation of Filipinos in the US during the 2010 polls:
- Percentage of actual registrants versus potential registrants was 5.41%,
- Percentage of voters versus actual registrants was 30.24% and;
- Percentage of voters versus potential registrants was 1.64%.
The two elections officials recognized the factors negatively affecting voter registration, including:
- The requirement to execute an Affidavit of Intent to Return;
- Geographical location of voters vis-à-vis the registration centers;
- High mobility of overseas Filipinos;
- Limited manpower in embassies and consulates;
- Insufficient information campaign, and
- Incorrect addresses provided by the voters.
Among those factors, the requirement to execute an Affidavit of Intent to Return was singled out as the most significant obstacle.
Rodel Rodis of the US Pinoys for Good Governance/ USP4GG explained that the 2006 Supreme Court decision to enfranchise dual citizens by removing the residence requirement should also extend to permanent residents under the principle of equal protection of the law.
Rodis also suggested that the word “absentee” be dropped in referring to overseas voters as it has a negative connotation.
The Comelec commissioners responded that they encouraged concerned Filipinos to raise the issue with the Supreme Court.
Victor Barrios of Global Filipino Nation and Tony Villegas of USP4GG recommended registering and voting via internet to save on costs and to address the challenges of high mobility among Filipinos and the physical distance of the embassies and consulates from would-be voters.
Barrios also suggested that voter registration be made a continuing process even as cut off dates for particular elections are observed. Any voter registered after the cut-off date for a coming election will not be eligible to vote in that election but in a succeeding election.
The commissioners asked the Filipino community leaders for help in encouraging their friends and family members to register and vote. They also announced that they will launch a campaign called “Sulong OAV (Overseas Absentee Voters),” using Facebook and other social media.
Esther Chavez of INQUIRER.net also brought up the idea of a link on the INQUIRER.net website to the official website of the Comelec. The commissioners thanked Chavez for the offer.
The commissioners agreed with these suggestions and said that they would present these suggestions at the next en-banc meeting of the Comelec.
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