FFE Magazine

Overseas absentee voting starts today

Sixty percent of the 737,759 registered absentee voters abroad are expected to cast their ballots when the month-long overseas absentee voting (OAV) starts today.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) records show 281,372 overseas absentee voters are in the Middle East, 228,309 in Asia, 125,604 in the US, 75,666 in Europe, and 26,808 are seafarers.

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes said absentee voting in Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia will start on April 16. Saudi Customs authorities have not yet released the ballot boxes to be used, he added. Absentee voting in these two cities will not be extended, but polling centers will be open one hour more every day or from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Brillantes said.

Commissioner Lucenito Tagle, Committee on OAV chairman, said the expansion of the automated polls has encouraged more Filipinos abroad to vote.

In the 2010, voter turnout was less than 33 percent or 150,000 of the more than 500,000 registered voters, he added. Tagle said the Comelec had printed an additional 20 percent of ballots for postal voting to allow Filipinos living far from Philippine diplomatic posts to participate in the elections. “Now the entire America is postal voting,” he said. “There are other areas where voters can cast their votes through post.” Tagle said the Comelec had also automated the elections in five more areas: Riyadh (53,396), Jeddah (30,238), Kuwait (30,238), Dubai (55,842) and Abu Dhabi (21.645).

“The Comelec is actually looking forward to the automation of all Philippine posts in the coming elections,” he said.

In 2010, automated polls were implemented only in Hong Kong and Singapore (50,063). In Singapore, the Comelec had made a special arrangement with embassy personnel supervising the elections to adjust the voting hours to 1-9 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends to adjust to the availability of voters.

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