#ExtendVotingHoursPH trends online as issues prevent Filipinos from voting before closing time

Voters in 2022
Lines in Pinyahan Elementary School as voters experience sweltering heat and malfunctions of vote-counting machines on May 9, 2022. (Philstar.com/Jazmin Tabuena)

Appeals to extend voting hours broke out on social media minutes before the 7 p.m. scheduled closing of precincts amid reports of faulty vote-counting machines (VCMs) on the day of the 2022 national and local elections.

Election watchdog Kontra Daya reported that this year has seen the most number of machine breakdowns compared to the midterm polls in 2019 and the national polls in 2016.

Comelec Commissioner George Garcia said that there were some 1,800 VCMs that malfunctioned so far. Issues involve paper jams, rejected ballots, the VCM scanner and VCM printers not working or not printing properly.

Comelec acting spokesperson John Rex Laudiangco also said that voters could fill up the ballots and leave them at the precinct to be batch-fed in the presence of watchers and accredited citizens’ arm.

Many, however, urged voters to keep the copies of their accomplished ballots and wait for the VCMs to be repaired so they can personally see their voting receipts as concerns of possible tampering mounted.

Voting hours are up to 7 p.m. only, but those who are within 30 meters from the precincts at that time can still cast their votes.

The situation has prompted a concerted appeal for the poll body to extend the period given the number of faulty VCMs which are causing long lines in precincts.

“If voters are DISENFRANCHISED because they don’t make the 7pm cut-off, hindi na ito kasalanan ng mga botante o nang pandemya. The Comelec should (be) made accountable. The Filipino people deserve vote counting machines that work,” broadcast journalist Karen Davila tweeted.

Voter disenfranchisement refers to the restriction of suffrage of a person or being deprived of their right to vote due to circumstances.

The hashtag “#ExtendVotingHoursPH” also trended on Twitter following the situation.

“We need to #ExtendVotingHoursPH @COMELEC. This is not the fault of the people, own up to it and extend the voting hours so everyone can vote!” Colourette CEO Nina Cabrera wrote.

“I have a friend who has been (in) line FOR 12 HOURS because the VCM is broken. This is YOUR responsibility. This is disenfranchisement. @COMELEC #ExtendVotingHoursPH!!!” another Twitter user said.

“After you disenfranchise voters, you leave them in the dark? After your inefficiency, you allow the voter to suffer the consequences of your actions? No thank you, COMELEC. Extend voting hours! #ExtendVotingHoursPH,” a different Filipino wrote.

Kontra Daya also denounced the poll body for “failing to extend voting hours, despite repeated calls on social media and voters facing long lines in various precincts across the Philippines.”

As of this writing, the “#ExtendVotingHoursPH” hashtag is the number one trending on local Twitter.

According to a report, election officers will no longer follow the 30-meter radius rule. This means everyone who is already in line will be able to vote.

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