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Solon seeks creation of voting sites in shopping malls

MALACANANG, Philippines – A lawmaker has proposed that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) set up structures and other mechanisms to allow voting in all national and local elections, except barangay elections, within the premises of shopping malls.
Rep. Eric L. Olivarez (1st District, Parañaque City) said his proposal seeks to encourage more citizens to exercise their right to vote through the facilitation of elections by means of providing comfort, especially for the senior citizens who will escape the burden of going to the crowded public school precincts.
“The creation of voting precincts or sites in malls would yield better attendance of the voters who will be positively affected by the appropriate progress for the electorate,” said Olivarez.
Olivarez, a vice chairman of the House committee on Metro Manila development, said the Comelec earlier piloted program where they allowed and actually conducted registration procedures within the premises of shopping malls in accordance with the normal operating hours.
“Thus, the goal to educate and encourage the people to get registered was achieved. My proposal seeks to attain the best results for the people and make sure that resources of the government are being utilized to enhance the accessibility of polling places,” said Olivarez.
Among the advantages of conducting voting in the malls according to Olivarez are: comfort brought by the air conditioning; availability of parking space; sufficient security measures; safety for all its patrons; presence of police authorities within the area; and coordinated control center for the facilities.
According to the lawmaker, the right of suffrage is one of the pillars of the country’s democracy and the very soul of people’s expression for the conduct of State affairs.
Hence, Olivarez said the voting public should not be constrained or limited in the free exercise thereof by the overcrowded voting precincts, inconvenient locations and additional burdens that come along the whole process.
“The exercise of such right should then be modified to reflect not only the use of modern or computerized technologies by the Comelec, but more so in adapting to the changing times brought about by the fast paced lifestyle and seeking the convenience of the people,” said Olivarez.
Olivarez filed House Bill 6361 or the proposed “Mall Voting Convenience Act of 2015,” which mandates the Comelec to set up structures and other mechanisms to allow the voting in all national and local elections, except barangay elections, within the premises of shopping malls.
In this regard, the Comelec shall: identify specific shopping malls which shall be utilized as voting precincts; transfer list of voters to be considered in the creation of mall voting sites who are to vote in such shopping malls as voting precincts; install voting machines and other devices to be used by the registered voters; provide the manner on how the polls shall be done in these satellite voting precincts; and implement other necessary mechanisms for mall voting.
The bill, now pending at the committee on suffrage and electoral reforms chaired by Rep. Fredenil H. Castro (2nd District, Capiz), also mandates the Comelec to send notices to registered voters entitled to vote in malls. However, any registered voter may opt to avail the right to vote in mall voting sites either by giving a written notice to the Comelec or by informing in person the Comelec or any of its Regional, Provincial, City or Municipal Election Registrar.
Initial funding for the Act shall be charged against the current year’s appropriations or from any available savings of the Comelec. Thereafter, such amount for its continued implementation shall be included in the annual General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Criselda Cabangon David, a happy mother of two kids, is a full-time Sociologist at the City Government of Lucena, Quezon Province. She is currently the Managing Editor of Ang Diaryo Natin Sunday News, a weekly local community newspaper in the Philippines and an active member of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.