Color-cod­ing the polls

Sun.Star Pampanga - - STORY! -

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. (col­ 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.

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