26,000 Fil-Ams across US Northeast start voting for PHL president
On a chilly April 9 Saturday facing the threat of a snow, the 26,000 Filipino Americans eligible to vote in the US Northeast for the next Philippine president began casting their ballots.
Elections and consular officials test a vote counting machine at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. The FilAm photo
The number represents 0.04 percent of the 54.4 million Filipinos voting in this election. In a five-way race, the Northeast Fil-Ams numbering 25,962 could provide a margin of victory in a tight and hotly contested election.
The worry, as has been seen in previous overseas elections, is whether people will turn out to vote for the May 9 polls. While people in the Philippines will vote on a single day, the 1.37 million overseas Filipinos will have the luxury of voting over an entire month.
“For the first time,” Consul General Mario de Leon Jr. told members of the Fil-Am Press Club of New York, “we will have automated balloting.”
There are many ways Fil-Ams can vote, according to De Leon. They can mail their ballots, they can vote in person at the Philippine Consulate building on Fifth Avenue, or they can go to any of three “off-site collection centers” in Needham, Massachusetts; Jersey City; and Southern New Jersey-Philadelphia area and cast their ballots.
De Leon noted now the number of voters typically increase during a presidential election. He said the consulate — with jurisdiction over the 10 states of Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont – registered about new 17K voters for this year’s polls.
For on-site voting, the consulate will have four Vote Counting Machines to receive the ballots. De Leon said the VCM is an “updated version” of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines used in the 2010 presidential and 2013 mid-term elections.
“I tried it,” he said. “It seems to be user-friendly.”
But like everything else electronic, the Commission on Elections and diplomatic officials are prepared for any technical glitches that may arise. “We will never know (the technical issues) until the actual voting,” he said.
The consulate would like to make the following important reminders to registered voters:
• If you have moved residence, provide the consulate your new address by emailing votersID2016@gmail.com or faxing 212-764-6010. The consulate is discouraging phone calls because of possible mishandling of information. As explained by Consul Kerwin Tate, certain information may be misheard or misspelled if dictated by phone.
• Follow instructions on the ballots. Blacken the circle beside the candidates’ names; the machine will not be able to read x’es or checks.
• The last day for voting will be May 9 5 a.m. EST.
• The Consulate needs volunteers to help out with the mailing of voting packets.
In 1992, Fidel Ramos won with only 23.5 percent of the vote in an election that pitted him against Eduardo Cojuangco, Salvador Laurel, Imelda Marcos, Ramon Mitra, Jovito Salonga, and Miriam Defensor Santiago. Given so many candidates in 1992 and now in 2016, the candidate who will win will need less than a quarter of the vote, emphasizing the importance of every single vote inside and outside the Philippines.
The May 9 elections will determine the next president, vice president, 12 senators, 297 members of the House of Representatives and other local official. Overseas Filipinos will only elect the national officials.
Vying to succeed incumbent President Benigno Aquino III are current Vice President Jojo Binay, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, Senator Grace Poe, former Trade Secretary Mar Roxas and Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.
Unlike in the US elections, the president and vice president are voted separately. —The FilAm