Polls open for 2019 midterm elections

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 13) — Thousands of polling precincts open nationwide for the highly-anticipated midterm elections today.

Voting period is from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. as scheduled.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared it a special non-working holiday to allow millions of Filipinos to exercise their right to vote.

There are 61,843,750 registered voters nationwide. Over 18,000 government posts are up for grabs, from senators down to councilors. Sixty-two candidates are vying for 12 Senate posts, while 614 aspirants are eyeing a seat in the 245-member House of Representatives.

How to vote

To know which precinct to go, voters can check the precinct finder on the website of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC). The list of precinct numbers are also available in the voting centers.

Members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI) will give the ballot, ballot secrecy folder and marking pen. Voters need to fully shade the circles next to the names of their chosen candidates – a maximum of 12 senators, and only one each for district representative, mayor, vice mayor and party-list group. The number of councilors a voter can choose depends on his or her legislative district.

The ballot will then be inserted in the vote counting machines, which will print a receipt for the voter to check if the votes were correctly scanned.

Voters can also reject a ballot if it has any other marking aside from the signature of the election inspector and if it is crumpled, COMELEC Spokesperson James Jimenez earlier said.

WATCH: How to cast your vote in the elections http://cnnphilippines.com/news/2019/3/19/2019-elections-how-to-vote.html

After April's rotational brownouts, the Department of Energy has promised there will be sufficient supply of power throughout the country to ensure the success of the automated elections.

Tight security

The Philippine National Police (PNP) is deploying 160,000 officers and personnel to guard the elections. PNP Chief Oscar Albayalde said all 36,000 polling centers will have at least two uniformed police officers each.

The police identified over 900 election hotspots or areas of concern due to possible escalation of violence, political rivalry and threats from armed groups. The towns of Daraga in Albay and Moises Padilla in Negros Occidental, as well as Cotabato City, have been placed under COMELEC control after violent events in these areas marred the election season.

The police noted 43 election-related incidents as of May 11, with 20 killed and 24 injured. PNP Spokesperson Bernard Banac told CNN Philippines the number of violent incidents is considerably lower than the 106 incidents recorded during the 2016 presidential elections.

The Philippine Coast Guard said it has deployed personnel all over the country who will assist the military and the police on security measures.

Meanwhile, the Department of Interior and Local Government said 2,838 police officers are prepared to be deputized by the COMELEC to become BEIs.

COMELEC requires public school teachers to serve as BEIs, but “in cases where the peace and order situation so requires as determined by the Commission and where there are no qualified voters willing to serve," the police may be authorized to take the role as a last resort, according to the Election Service Reform Act.

Voter turnout

The government is hoping more Filipinos will cast their votes this year, following an upward trend in the voter turnout.

Around 74 percent of registered voters turned up in the 2010 elections. In 2013, the number went up to 77 percent. Three years later, voter turnout had reached 82 percent. These three polls had an average turnout of 78 percent.

The top 10 most vote-rich provinces are Cebu, Cavite, Pangasinan, Laguna, Negros Occidental, Bulacan, Batangas, Rizal, Iloilo and Nueva Ecija, comprising of more than 30 percent of voters nationwide.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) will be suspending number coding for all vehicles for the midterm elections on Monday. The MMDA said that the suspension of the scheme is to ensure that there will be enough public utility vehicles to ferry commuters who are going to vote in the provinces.

Number coding for provincial buses are also suspended from May 10 to May 14.