2010 elections

SMARTMATIC MACHINES IN FINAL TEST TODAY

COMELEC TO AWARD P11.2 BILLION AUTOMATED POLL CONTRACT THIS WEEK

The Comelec’s Technical Working Group (TWG) will conduct today its final and last test for the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) poll machines of lone qualifying bidder Smartmatic and Total Information Management.

In addition, the TWG will repeat two of the tests earlier performed due to some minor errors committed during the tests. Last Wednesday, the PCOS machines could have passed the accuracy test of 99.995% had the members TWG did not miss marking eight of the 20,000 marks to be shaded in the 625 test ballots.

A report by the TWG said the poll machines underwent the accuracy testing but read only 19,992 ballot marks or shades, instead of the required 20,000. The TWG members missed shading eight of the marks. Technically, Smartmatic’s PCOS machines should have earned 100% from the accuracy test.
Under the test criteria, the poll machines must register 99.9995 percent accuracy in reading ballot marks, meaning it should have no more than one error in reading 20,000 ballot marks.
 
Although the machines showed 100 percent accuracy in reading the 19,992 vote marks in the test ballots, the TWG cannot declare the test machines to have passed the accuracy criteria.
 
“We are supposed to test the machines for 20,000 marks in accuracy and we have tested it for less than that. We have to test them on Thursday (yesterday) alongside the end-to-end demonstration and evaluation.
 
You have to comply with one error or less in the 20,000 marks in the requirement before you can say the item is complied with by the machines,” said Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) chairman Ferdinand Rafanan.
The TWG failed to repeat the accuracy test yesterday. They decided to repeat the test today together with 12-hour battery test which was performed yesterday but was stopped because Smartmatic used the wrong cable for the test.

The demo momentarily stopped after a test machine “supposedly caught fire.” Representatives of Smartmatic-TIM rushed to the machine when smoke came out.

After a minute of troubleshooting, a representative from Smartmatic said: “The cable used to connect the battery to PCOS is thinner and I can only assume, we packed the wrong cable. There was overheating from a short circuit, basically because there is a big battery connected to the thin cable for power.”

 

When representatives from the TWG tried to feed test ballots to the machine, the ballots were not accepted.
 
“The machines will guard itself from the tampering once its features are tampered, in this case the power source,” said Smartmatic.
 

 

 

Rafanan said he is satisfied with the “unintentional demonstration” and noted “this is very helpful testing.”
 
Following the explanation of the Smartmatic-TIM, Rafanan said: “The thin cable is connected to the big battery and from short circuit, the battery overheated. The testing for 12 hour operation on a battery and alternative power source will be repeated,” said Rafanan.
 
The PCOS machines involve technology where special paper ballots marked by voters are scanned and counted by “optical ballot scanners.” Upon feeding the ballots to the PCOS units, the machine will read the marks or shades beside names of candidates and consolidate them as vote information.
So far, said Rafanan, the poll automation system’s ballots used security features such as bar codes and holograms, required passwords for operation and multi-level access; recognition of four kinds of marks – full shade, a partial or half shade, a check or a cross (x) mark made by both pencil and pen, among others.

 

The end-to-end demonstration of the poll machines and evaluation of remaining criteria was conducted yesterday and Smartmatic-TIM passed the test.
 
Smartmatic-TIM must also pass the post-qualification or verification of eligibility documents in their bid proposals, and all bid appeals resolved before the SBAC can award the contract “hopefully by the first or second week of June,” Rafanan said.
 
SBAC said it is satisfied with the machine demonstration of Smartmatic.  Comelec chairman Jose Melo is also very confident that the 2010 polls could be fully automated without the Comelec settling “for less” in choosing the bidder.
 
 

 

 

This involves the duplex reading of 1,000 ballots or a total of 2,000 ballots as the machines read both sides of the ballots. To pass the technical evaluation, the poll machines must store in an encrypted format the digital images of 2,000 ballot sides or 1,000 ballots with back-to-back printing for paper trail audit.

The ballots must be able to contain 300 names on each side, since the Comelec expects to fit in the names of all candidates for both local and national posts in the 2010 elections. Unlike the ballot used for manual elections, the ballots contain pre-printed names of the candidates with ovals that voters will mark to cast their choices, said Rafanan.

The machines can detect and reject fake ballots or spurious and previously scanned ballots; operate for 12 hours on battery or alternative power devices; and transmit consolidated voting results using a public telco network, said TWG.

Representatives from Smartmatic-TIM said they will coordinate with the TWG for the second batch of ballots to be used for the accuracy testing. 

 

The PCOS apparently shut down when it detected a short circuit to protect itself. It restarted when it was plugged to an electric outlet, Smartmatic-TIM explained.

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