In 2010 – the success of the internet voting pilot test inspired legislators to rally behind a measure amending the modernization law to allow internet voting in all highly urbanized cities and all the major municipalities nationwide. It was only incidental that the authors of the law came from those highly urbanized cities and major municipalities that would enjoy internet voting.
Voting in those places began one month before the 2nd Monday of May, and voters were able to vote anywhere. There were internet kiosks set up in groceries, hospitals, malls, even cemeteries; people could vote from their phones; from computers in their homes; from laptops out in the middle of Manila Bay. The whole concept of absentee voting became obsolete.
In places where internet voting was not available, there was a mix of election solutions: half-manual in most municipalities, where voters used an optical mark (OM) ballot – like the ones used for lotto; and for the rest, a direct-recording electronic (DRE) system using battery powered voting units that could easily be transported to island municipalities and other far-flung areas. Despite the variations in technology, however, electronic transmission becomes the main vector for canvassing.
Results from places that used OM ballots were routed to an electronic transmission system. In those few areas where DRE systems were in place, the results were beamed directly to the canvassing center using the modem integrated into the battery powered voting units. These places that didn’t use internet voting had a voting period of two weeks, counted from the 2nd Monday of April.
The widespread acceptance of modernized voting processes spurred a change in campaigning strategies as well.
The internet was proven to be an effective campaign vector in 2007 and by 2010, podcasts have all but replaced traditional broadcast advertising. Podcasts are cheaper to produce, and persist far longer than 30-second spots on tv and radio. Newspaper ads are taken over by on-line advertising.
The first dot com to take advantage of this new trend is http://www.broadsheet.com – a website containing only paid political advertising. The basic package entitles you to one week exposure on the site; exposure being defined as a 60 second video clip with scrolling information about the candidate’s credentials and platforms. Premium packages offer partnerships with popular sites allowing political advertising to appear as pop-ups on those sites.
Other dot coms follow. There’s politicaltipsheet.com and winnaz.com. The pop-up package is wildly successful and also incredibly annoying. The COMELEC is deluged with complaints, forcing it to look seriously into regulating pop-ups, and later on, trying to bring internet spending within the ambit of the spending cap. But none of these attempts result in serious regulation. Apparently, a majority of legislators are too busy designing their own pop-ups.
SMS campaigning, despite fulsome predictions about how successful it would be as a campaign medium, turned out to be a dud. People with cellphones find them too obtrusive and candidates who relied heavily on text campaigns realized that they turned-off more voters than they gained. Only the candidates with a cell-phone toting constituencies actually found it worth the trouble, but even they admitted that SMS only allowed them to stay in touch with people who would’ve voted for them anyway – kinda like a “preaching to the choir” situation. So, by 2010, the jets on SMS campaigning had cooled tremendously. And anyway, cellphones had become the new pagers. With free wi-fi (for the next three years, anyway) widely available, people preferred the new Portable Computing Platforms (PoCLats) – handheld computers with 5 inch screens that could be used to surf the net, make phone calls, watch hard-drive videos (HDVs) on, and light your cigarettes with (travel pillow attachment, optional).
Obviously, by this time, personal campaigning had become almost quaint, with only a few old candidates actually still insisting on traditional stumping. Inevitably, these traditional campaign sorties had to be cut short as the candidates realized that their audiences were repulsed by portable oxygen tanks and the tinny Mr. Roboto sound made by tracheotomy voice-boxes. Even worse, the Sex-Bomb dancers refused to boogie with them as none of the dancers knew CPR.
On the second monday of may, the electronic ballot boxes were opened; the results were available in under five minutes, broadcast live over the internet. Within two hours, the COMELEC proclaimed the winner of all races except the presidency and vice-presidency. Using COMELEC provided facilities, the results were fed into the canvassing computers of Congress where armies of accountants verify the math. Within five hours, Congress gave up trying to punch holes into the results, and the president and vice-president elect were announced. None of the candidates (5 each for president and vice) achieved a majority, and the winning candidates each enjoyed a lead of less than three-quarters of a million. More people voted on the 4th season of Philippine Idol than in the elections.
Alarmed, Congress convened an emergency session at the best of both the Speaker of the House and the Senate President. Within twenty-four hours, a law was passed mandating run-off elections after two weeks. The COMELEC scrambled with a nationwide information campaign and the re-programming of the voting systems. Unfortunately, only the internet voting system could be reprogrammed in time. Two weeks and one day later, the run-off elections were held, with the electorate limited to those who used internet voting; a new president and vice-president emerged, enjoying a 53% and a 67% majority victories respectively.
An hour later, messages started pouring in from other countries, congratulating the winners and commending the COMELEC. The elections of 2010 were hailed as the first truly successful elections in Philippine history.
The following day, the losing candidates filed a complaint with the Presidential Election Tribunal, alleging that that the contract for internet voting was flawed – and the results of the election ought to be invalidated – because the internet voting pilot test that inspired the amendments in 2010 was allegedly carried out without an implementing law. The ‘fruit of the poison tree’ argument was invoked, and the Supreme Court agreed.
46 million Filipino voters choked on the fruit of the poison tree, much to the delight of Snow-White’s step mother and the Filipino Malthusians’ Association of the Philippines (FMAP) who exulted that the problem of over-population had finally been solved.