Color-coding the polls
GOVERNMENT agencies have been using colors to dis tinguish levels of concern or alertness over something. They’ve used it to categorize areas to be watched in the May 13, 2019 senatorial and local elections and areas hit by a measles outbreak. There’s color-coding, too, of transport routes, typhoons, flooding levels, and many more.
Color is a communication tool, it is often used by government to make understanding a situation easy. Lately, however, there have been many colors in news reports that make one wonder if color usage was for the public or more for these government offices. Is it effective as a tool to promote understanding?
The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has resorted to assigning colors to areas that need to be watched. Alert levels used to be in numbers–from 1 to 4. This time, colors will do the telling.
The Comelec said green in the watch list means the area is not a security concern and is “relatively peaceful and orderly.” Yellow means “areas that have a history of election-related incident in the last two elections, as well as intense political rivalry, and that it had been previously declared under Comelec control.”
Orange means “areas where there is a serious armed threat posed by the New People’s Army, Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters, Abu Sayyaf Group and rogue elements of the Moro National Liberation Front and Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and other analogous groups.”
Then, there is red. It means “areas (that) exhibit the combined factors under the yellow and orange categories, such that it may warrant the motu proprio declaration of Comelec control.”
“Comelec control” means the poll body will take over the control and supervision of all national and local officials and employees required to perform election duties. This also means control and supervision over law enforcement agencies, including the military.
In relation to the spread of measles, the Department of Health in Central Visayas declared a “Code White alert” following a declaration of the outbreak. White, this time, means health offices will go on a campaign to immunize all children aged six to 59 months, and activate measles fast lanes in public hospitals to give priority to measles patients.
Green, white, yellow, orange and red. There must be logic to the use of colors to set safety or alert levels. As the guidelines for color discrimination and identification state, color usage is meant to help people associate with the safety status. (colorusage.arc.nasa.gov). But the color-coding must not lead to unintended interpretations.
This leads to the question–why use colors at all? Government offices can be specific in telling the public the level of alertness that is required.
With the public besieged by different colors with different meanings, it makes one wonder if the color-coding was for the people or for those in government to make reporting easier for them.
What is important in color-coding is that the public will understand the color’s meaning.