- By Butch Fernandez @butchfbm

THE Commission on Elections is asking lawmakers for P8 billion more that it says it needs to buy more machines and add personnel for the safe and efficient conduct of the 2022 national and local elections.

At a hearing of the Joint Congressio­nal Oversight Committee on the automated election system co-chaired by Senator Imee Marcos, Comelec Commission­er Marlon Casquejo said P1 billion is needed to buy 10,000 additional vote counting machines (VCMS) needed to bring down the number of voters per clustered precinct, as part of health safety protocols for the pandemic.

With 10,000 new VCMS, Comelec said it can bring down the number of voters per precinct from 1,000 to just 800.

Per latest data it reported, Comelec had said there are nearly 62 million voters in the country.

At least P7 billion is needed, meanwhile, to get additional personnel to take charge of the additional precincts and to raise the honorarium of election workers, given the presumptio­n that voting hours will certainly be extended—likely to 12 hours—since the number of people in any precinct at any given time has to be limited for social distancing purposes.

Casquejo reported that they will use for the 2022 exercise the 97,345 vote counting machines that were used in 2016.

The refurbishm­ent and repair of VCMS is currently being undertaken by the poll body.

Casquejo said the poll body will also conduct next week a time-and-motion simulation of the voting process in order to have a realistic estimate of the time needed to extend the voting hours for the May 9, 2022 polls.

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