Press Release
March 9, 2009

Gordon asks Senate's action on 'early voting' measure

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today asked the Senate to put on the table of discussion a measure allowing "early or advanced voting" to allow more people, notably those in far-flung areas, to exercise their right of suffrage in the 2010 elections.

Gordon made the call after Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo expressed readiness to hold early voting in "areas of immediate concern," an election euphemism for high-risk security areas in the country.

"We should seriously consider allowing early or advanced voting in certain areas, such as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao where it has been traditionally considered high security risk areas," he said.

"This early voting would also allow increased participation among Filipino electorate," he added, referring to poll workers, campaign workers, the media, the elderly, and others who, due to their duties and personal circumstances, do not have time to vote.

"Early or advanced voting," which refers to any system where voters can cast their ballot, either by mail or in person, ahead of the official elections day, is a fast growing trend in more than 30 states in the US.

Gordon, author of the amended Automated Election System Law, has earlier filed Senate Bill 2972 which seeks expressly allow for the practice of early voting in polls, by which voters can cast their votes on a single or series of days prior to an election day.

He also explained that the early voting would encourage active participation among overseas Filipino workers, businessmen who may have scheduled trips abroad, people who may be working on election day, and people who live in remote places to vote before the official election day in May 2010.

"This (early-voting) is not exactly an undiscovered science. After all, Americans showed it very, very stoutly in the last elections. One good thing in the last (US) elections is in the discovery of people that their votes will count and that's why there was a huge turn-out," he added.

In the last U.S. presidential election, early voting reportedly accounted for about one-third (or more than 30 percent) of the votes cast in the presidential race, compared with 14 percent in 2000.

High numbers of early voters appear in American states with a high percentage of rural population and in those that are geographically large. Individual voters who face long commutes or who live in rural areas are more likely to cast their ballot earlier than holding them until election day.

"Expanding voting to more than one day can also reduce the risk of overworked poll workers making mistakes, and in the scenario of automated elections, the risk of having broken automated election machines," Gordon added.

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