US-based Filipino voters trickle in at Philippine Consulate
LOS ANGELES — Overseas absentee voting (OAV) at the Philippine Consulate General here got off to a slow but smooth start (Sunday in Manila) as consular officials said they were anticipating the bulk of the votes to come in – by mail or delivered to the consulate office in person – during the last two weeks of the voting period.
There are 31,348 registered voters within the consulate jurisdiction covering Southern California, Southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. The Commission on Elections (Comelec) mailed the ballots, along with voting instructions, to their registered addresses.
As of Sunday, the start of the month-long voting period for overseas absentee voting, the consulate has received 67 mailed-in ballots from early voters. A few showed up to hand in their votes. “We expect to receive most of the ballots during the last two weeks before May 13,” said Consul General Hellen Barber-De la Vega. “Based on our experience, many of our kababayans will vote closer to the deadline.”
But Los Angeles resident Mae Espiritu is not waiting until the last minute. She filled out and mailed her ballot on Sunday. “I feel that it’s my responsibility as an overseas Filipino to help make sure that only the best candidates get elected,” said Espiritu, 22. “I’m doing this not just for myself but for my fellow Filipinos back home.”
Rey Ganon, who has dual citizenship, said he has already received his ballot from the Comelec, but was not yet ready to vote on Sunday. “I’ve already picked my first six senators, but I’m still doing more research to help me pick the other six,” he said.
Barber-De la Vega, who noted that the number of registered voters nearly doubled for this election, expressed hope the number of actual voters would similarly increase.
She reminded voters that those who failed to cast their votes in two previous elections can reactivate their registrations by showing up at the consulate office within the voting period. The Comelec reversed its earlier ruling deactivating some 237,000 OAVs for failing to vote in the last two elections.
The list of overseas voters who failed to vote in two consecutive elections can be found in the Comelec and Department of Foreign Affairs websites. The list is also posted at the consulate.
Out of the more than 700,000 registered OAVs, 125,604 are in the Americas, according to the Comelec.
Polling precincts in Philippine embassies and consulate offices serving large numbers of absentee voters have been equipped with precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines. These precincts are in Hong Kong, Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Dubai and Kuwait.
The overseas voting period started on Apr. 14, 2013, at 9 a.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST) and will end on May 13 at 4 a.m. PST.