By Marivir R. Montebon
New York City – Filipinos in the East Coast can now officially cast their ballots for the Philippine elections. Overseas absentee voting begins today, April 9 and will end on May 9, to coincide with the national elections in the Philippines.
Consul General Mario Lopez de Leon Jr. said that the Philippine Consulate of New York which has jurisdiction over 10 states in the eastern seaboard of the US expects as high turn out because the registration of voters have gone up since 2004 and “simply because this is a presidential election,” he said in a press briefing last week.
De Leon added that if overseas Filipinos (1.37 million in the US) went out to vote, they could well be the ‘swing vote’ in the elections.
The Philippine Consulate of New York has registered 25,692 voters from the 10 states. This has gone up by 17,000 registrants since the last elections. The consulate receives hand carried sealed election returns on weekends from voters and on weekdays, voters can personally come to the office to cast their ballots (Mondays and Thursdays only) and feed these into the Vote Counting Machine (VCM) which automatically counts the votes.
Beginning April 9, ballots will be sent to voters in signified addresses if they request the Consulate through email email@example.com. In turn, they will have to send their filled up ballots and sealed packets to the Philippines with the required stamps worth $1.49.
Choices for presidential, vice presidential, senatorial, and party list groups are to be blackened thoroughly for the machine to be able to read.
Consul Kerwin Tate, head of the elections team at the Consulate, said the tasks at hand are quite tedious and overwhelming, hence volunteers (dual citizens) are welcome. So far, the Consulate only has two temporary staffers taking charge of the electoral logistics. He also assured that glitches in the first automated election canvassing will be addressed by Comelec which has deployed a 24/7 support.
Offsite collection centers for ballot submission are open in Jersey City, Bergenfield, south Jersey, Massachusetts, and Philadelphia during the four weekends.
Amb. de Leon said he is expecting about 30% voter turn-out or even much higher this year. Last month, the Consulate together with the Fil-Am Press Club of New York conducted a know your candidates forum which was vigorously participated by various organizations in the New York and other states.