After Automated Elections, You Can’t Go Home Again

An air of excited expectancy was palpable in our neighborhood this morning. There was a feeling that the day ahead would be full of surprises, hopefully not unpleasant. We live right across a voting precinct and the place was abuzz with activity the past few days. The poll personnel and volunteers were there a full two hours before the voting was to officially start, although the cops and military who were guarding the place were camped out days before.

As always, it’s a chaotic process: long queues, inaccurate voters’ lists, the confused electorate mingling (and occasionally tangling) with the frazzled election officials, shady characters working for the various candidates hovering in the sidelines. A crazy stew exacerbated by the steamy summer heat.

But after you get through the long lines, the voting itself is relatively quick and painless. Simple, fast and apparently transparent. The PCOS machines, at least where we voted, worked wonderfully. I saw smiling faces leaving the polling place. Even the police looked relaxed and happy. Or maybe it’s just me feeling good about politics for the first time in a very long while.

Once we get through this phase of familiarizing ourselves with the technology, there will be no going back. This is what Alvin Toffler called “the synchronization of human behavior with the rhythms of the machine”. After this, people’s perception and expectations about the electoral process will be transformed.

It’s about building trust, as explained by Alejandro Roces. Despite the many initial apprehensions and glitches, automated elections are here to stay. And it may be premature, but I want to congratulate the COMELEC for a job well done.

It is now up to us to live with the consequences of what we did today.

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