COMELEC says extended voting hours ‘almost sure’ in 2022 elections

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 11) — Voting hours in the 2022 elections will likely be extended, as the Commission on Elections mulls over changes to the conduct of the polls amid the coronavirus pandemic.

COMELEC Commissioner Antonio Kho Jr. on Monday said they are looking into retaining the one-day election period, but the voting hours would have to be stretched.

“Almost sure na ‘yan it would be extended. Pag-uusapan pa gaano kahaba ‘yung extension. So ‘yung dating 8-hour elections, hindi na applicable ‘yan. It will be extended probably up to 10 or even 12," Kho said in a virtual forum, adding they will still have to consider the capacity of poll workers.

[Translation: It’s almost sure it would be extended. We will still discuss the length of the extension. So, the previous 8-hour period is no longer applicable, it will be extended probably to up to 10 or even 12.]

He explained the change is necessary, as they plan to limit the number of voters to 800, or even lower, per cluster precinct, depending on the availability of vote counting machines. This is around the same number in the 2016 polls but is 200 people less compared to 2019.

Earlier, the commission said it is studying the possibility of holding elections for two to three days. This would however still require a new legislation, Kho said, and no such action yet has been taken in either chamber.

“Marami rin nagsasabi na COMELEC can do it on its own, because we have the power to administer election, but it’s a risk too high to take na baka later on, lahat ng plano namin — two days, three days — suddenly umakyat sa Supreme Court ‘yan, sabihin nila hindi pwede. Patay na lahat ‘yan,” he added.

[Translation: A lot are also saying the COMELEC can do it on its own, because we have the power to administer election, but it’s a risk too high to take, because later on, our plans to hold election for two or three days may not be permitted by the Supreme Court. It will all go to waste.]

With COVID-19 threats expected to remain next year, Kho said the commission will enforce appropriate measures to stem viral transmission during the polls. It is also looking into setting up an “isolated polling place” in all voting centers, where those with a temperature higher than 37°C can still exercise their right to vote, while protecting the health of others, he added.