When do we talk about online overseas voting?

When do we talk about online overseas voting?

/ 05:01 AM March 09, 2024

On Feb. 21, 2024, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced that it had found the two bidders for the online voting and counting system (OVCS) ineligible, and noted the development as a “failure in bidding.”

A second round of bidding for the OVCS valued at P465.8 million is scheduled for the third week of March, with the deadline for submission of bids set on Mar. 19. With midterm elections just a year away, Comelec is cutting it quite close. Whatever the case, it appears that the poll body is resolved and quite determined to go ahead with online voting for overseas Filipino voters for the May 2025 elections.

It may be recalled that in May 2023, it was reported that the Comelec had approved online voting for registered Filipino voters abroad to increase voter turnout overseas for the 2025 elections. I wrote about the risks and benefits of the exercise in the May 26 issue of the Inquirer, noting that such a move would indeed help enfranchise more overseas Filipinos by providing them with a more convenient way of voting. Of course, it is just as important to ensure that adequate safeguards and measures are in place to secure the online voting process and its system.


With the midterm elections just over a year from now, when do we start talking about online overseas voting, given the number of questions and details that need to be discussed? For overseas voters, registration ends in a few months in September. If the aim is to get more overseas voters registered with the adoption of online voting as a means to attract them, then time is of the essence to get the message out to this constituency. When do we start the conversations and information dissemination on online voting to give this targeted group a better understanding of the system and be convinced to use it?


I am currently based overseas, and even as I actively search online for information about online overseas voting, I find very little on the subject that would be relevant to me as someone who will use this system to vote in 2025. Most overseas Filipinos will likely be depending on our embassies and consulates as well as Filipino community leaders and organizations for such information. If we want Filipino voters overseas to be engaged in this process, we need to reach out to them to let them know how it will work, what will be required of them, and how secure the system needs to be, while the window for overseas voting registration is still open.

It’s interesting to note that a survey conducted by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, an intergovernmental organization based in Stockholm that supports and strengthens democratic institutions and processes around the world, has found that only eight countries in the world currently allow their voters to cast their ballots online. Of those eight, only Estonia conducts online voting without restrictions, whereas other countries such as France, Panama, and Pakistan conduct it only for overseas voters, similar to what the Comelec is planning to do.

Despite the rapid advances in digital technology, why have very few countries adopted online voting considering its convenience and cost-effectiveness? It’s probably because a number of experts agree that even if all the technological challenges were met and the system were considered to be robust, it all boils down to trust, and earning public trust is not an easy endeavor. It is one that can take a considerable amount of time. People need to be convinced that it will work and that the sanctity of their vote will be secured. To do that, the Comelec needs to start reaching out to and engaging Filipino overseas voters as early as possible. It is crucial to get the message across and build up trust in the process and system so that the goal of increasing voter turnout among overseas voters can be achieved.


Moira G. Gallaga served three Philippine presidents as presidential protocol officer and was posted as a diplomat at the Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles and the Philippine Embassy in Washington.

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TAGS: Comelec, Voting

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