Linux Under The Spotlight As We Prepare For A Chaos Bound National Elections

With less than a few days to go before the Philippines will hold its first ever fully automated national elections, it seems like we're in for a really bumpy ride. Serious, embarrassing, and idiotic technical glitches were discovered while testing the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines that will be used to count votes for the polls.

Smartmatic Corp., a Venezuelan-led multinational corporation that handles the automated election process (from design to deployment of equipments), blamed the problems on the machines' flash memory cards, which they said contained the wrong instructions. Perhaps they should change their name to Not-so-Smartmatic or Dumbmatic.

A total of 76,000 CF memory cards that were already deployed on different designated areas across the country have to be recalled and formatted. The Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said that the cards will be tested, and if fixed, will be delivered before the May 10 elections (God help us).

During the field-testing of several counting machines, it was uncovered that the votes were mistakenly counted in favor of the ruling party presidential candidate (intentional or not?). Other errors were also found while counting the local votes. So I guess there is something fishy about the "wrong instructions" excuse.

The PCOS blunder has resulted on a widespread call to postpone the elections since it's pretty obvious that everything is still a mess while time is running out. There's also a plea to go back to manual counting and just ditch the defective and questionable automated system. The trust has already been lost.

As for Linux being under the spotlight while we prepare for this chaos bound national polls, I saw this photo from the front page of the Philippines' leading newspaper:

The photo caption reads: "A Smartmatic worker inserts one of 76,000 CF cards recalled for glitches and formatted in its warehouse in Laguna." He is clearly using Ubuntu Linux so I wondered if the system used by Smartmatic Inc. is entirely based on Linux and other Free and Open Source software.

I once wished for an Open Source and Linux-based automated voting system in order to help minimize election fraud, but since our corrupt politicians will do whatever they can to cheat and win, I'm losing hope. Before I'll go, I would like to quote this comment from our reader:

"All electronic systems do is add another layer of potential fraud, which is harder to spot than before. Also it's far harder to identify who has committed the fraud than when paper votes are used. What's the point? Linux would do best to stay well clear - why get tarred with that brush eh?"

Please share with us your thoughts via comment.


  1. vesselofearthMay 06, 2010

    Right now, we don't have a choice. "The die is cast", so the saying goes. Besides, the picture says it all. As for politics in this country, it's bad enough that MOST if not all politicians will seek to have a seat in government just to serve their selfish agendas. As citizens of this nation, we would do well to take an even more active participation in ensuring that the first ever nationwide automated elections are credible.
    "The only thing necessary to the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing"-Edmund Burke

  2. In our school, we used an open-source voting system called Halalan. The results were fast and immediate.

  3. lol @ dumbmatic.


    Greed knows no bounds, who knows these so called "technical glitches" may not be technical glitches after all.

    There is a saying, do not hastily attribute to malice what may simply be explained by stupidity.

    I also believe its reverse, do not hastily attribute to stupidity what may simply be explained by malice.

  4. There was a non-open source web based. voting system at my school for the student government. I still found a problem that allowed it to be easily brute forced. Wrote an article about it for the school paper.

    If only it had been open source..

  5. AnonymousMay 09, 2010

    Absolutely right. Linux should definitely stay clear of this. It's higher quality can only work against it in such a corruptible, damned if you do, damned if you don't situation because no matter the outcome, it'll be "blamed" on Linux. Efficiency, generosity, and politics, just don't mix.

  6. AnonymousMay 11, 2010

    Its a successful election!
    The First time ever in the History of the Philippines, most peaceful, fast and credible.

    And who is working behind the scenes that made it possible?

    ALL LINUX!!!!