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Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Youth group urges COMELEC to step up voter registration drives

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Jiggy Calucag
Dreamer. Youth Leader. Advocate. Liberal.

In a press statement, the Liberal Youth of the Philippines called on the COMELEC to ensure safe, secure and inclusive voting rights from voter registration to the actual election day. It is reported that it still has a backlog of around 4 million eligible Filipinos who have yet to register before the September 30, 2021 deadline.

The young liberals through their FB page post attributed this huge backlog to inaccessibility on internet access, health and safety protocols, indifference and political apathy, and miseducation.

The group noted the COMELEC’s efforts to overcome these existing obstacles which include allowing online registration (registrants must, of course, appear before the local polling office for biometrics) and accommodating millions of unregistered voters. (see Digital-itics: 2022 Presidential Election will be digital). However, the group articulated other possible options that the COMELEC can explore in order to aggressively persuade voters to register.

In particular, the Liberal Youth urges the COMELEC to facilitate (1) registration on wheels, wherein caravans will be deployed to communities in a regular manner (it could be weekly) to ensure that Filipinos will not risk going out to be exposed to the virus as well as ensuring that eligible Filipinos can register as voters; (2) deputize other government agencies in collecting bio-metrics of voters, where it could facilitate faster collection of biometrics to complete the process of registration. This suggestion would help feed simultaneous but shorter queuing. Another one is (3) facilitate National Telecommunications Commission Text Brigade for the constant reminder of the Filipinos with the text once a week leading up to the September 30 deadline would hopefully encourage eligible Filipinos to schedule an appointment and fill up the forms, and proceed with completing the registration procedure; and lastly, (4) review who are part of local absentee voting,  like health workers, teachers manning the elections booths, and some uniformed personnel, media and other on-duty employees during the election. One suggestion is to include the BPO workers as early voters, an initiative that would enfranchise more than 1.3 million BPO employees.

The group points out that as an institution, the entire COMELEC body has to be active campaigners of voter registration, noting that its constitutionally mandated role is not merely to facilitate the polls but to become an institution that serves as the voice of democracy by making sure that the most possible number of eligible voters will be able to cast their ballots during the election. Finally, the group emphasized that the COMELEC has to address gaps and arrest the problems of low registration turnout.

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