23 September 2008
The Honorable Commissioners of the
Commission on Elections
Through: Hon. Jose A.R. Melo
Re: Urgent proposals for youth voters’ registration
The First Time Voters (FTV, for brevity) Project is a conglomeration of youth and student organizations with the common goal of appraising the political participation and consciousness of first time voters through voters’ education. Since its inception, it has initiated campaigns and activities in line with this thrust.
The organization, among others, upholds the right of the people to register as a precondition to the exercise of the constitutional right to suffrage. Being the initial step in the exercise thereof, adequate information on the process of registration should be made accessible to the public. Also, the process itself shall be made convenient so as to attract participation from a wider base. However in past elections, there were not a few reported cases of disenfranchisement of youth and first time voters because of the limitations in the past registration processes.
According to the NSO 2000 Census-based Populations Projection, there will be 33.4 million voters in 2010; 6 million of which are first time voters. In the face of the National Elections in 2010, we anticipate that more youth would be able to participate if the proper bodies would put premium to the issues of information dissemination or lack thereof and accessibility to the registration process itself.
It is in this context that we, in the FTV Project propose to bolster the accessibility of the 2010 national elections through the utilization of schools in the information campaign, expansion of the availability of registration materials, and the setting up of satellite registration centers. We elaborate on these points as follows:
COMELEC to utilize schools in information campaign
The age range of first time voters for 2010 is 16 to 20 years old. Those belonging to this age group spend most of their time in their respective schools, thus their maximum exposure therein. It is in this belief that the FTV moves to channel information drive through these establishments. This will be done through directives from government bodies such as the Department of Education and the Commission on Higher Education. Flowcharts of the registration process and related materials shall be provided to the schools for the perusal of their students.
COMELEC to expand the availability of registration materials
The COMELEC, as the chief implementing arm of election laws, should be at the forefront of promoting the exercise of the right of suffrage as incumbent on all Filipino citizens. We propose that registration forms should be made available thru avenues that are easily accessed by the youth such as schools and community centers. Also, the COMELEC should make available downloadable registration forms via the internet through the COMELEC website or other related links.
Set up satellite registration centers or field mobile registration units.
It is a declared State policy to systematize the present method of registration in order to establish among others, a clean and updated list of voters (Sec. 2 R.A. No. 8189 “The Voters’ Registration Act of 1996). In order to attain this, a mechanism should be devised in order to allow a maximum number of voters to be able to register. A number of youth are not able to register because they are not based in their places of domicile on account of studies or employment.
This is a reality that prompts the FTV to propose the establishment of satellite registration centers in schools, community centers, and other accessible areas. For areas where a satellite center is not feasible, mobile registration units may be fielded accompanied by accredited COMELEC officials. Given that the COMELEC has already started with the computerization of registration, transfer of information from one COMELEC access point to another would entail minimal cost. In return, enfranchisement of youth voters will be upheld.
Assign additional special registration days
Students, who comprise the majority of first time voters are prevented from registering by their being away from their places of residence on account of their studies. Young professionals likewise are hindered by their location of employment or by the fact that registration is conducted during office hours. It is in this line that FTV proposes the assignment of additional special registration days every first Saturday of the month. With this move, COMELEC will further assure the enfranchisement of youth voters.
The upcoming 2010 National Elections presents our country with another pivotal point in our conflict-ridden history. The next set of national leaders would greatly determine the course of our economy, our politics, and our morality in these hard times. It becomes imperative therefore for the COMELEC to take proactive and essential steps to promote youth enfranchisement in our electoral process. The COMELEC should help to create the enabling conditions for the effective and informed exercise by the youth of their sovereign right to vote. We submit that the above propositions are but reasonable measures that in the end would empower the youth today.
In return, FTV in alliance with Task Force 2010 (TF2010) and YouthVotePhilippines commits to assist and facilitate youth participation to help COMELEC achieve these proposals.
Youth councils and organizations in FTV, TF2010 and YouthVotePhilippines network schools will provide volunteers to do the information drive, organize fora or symposia on election processes. The youth volunteers will likewise help make the information campaign friendly and appropriate to youth voters.
The aformentioned member networks of FTV will place links on their websites, blogs and social networking sites to the uploaded registration form that COMELEC will make available. Distribution of the actual registration forms can be done by FTV and its networks in the schools where they are based. These efforts will broaden the access of Youth Voters and shorten the time it will take for the actual registration process.
In areas where FTV and its networks have strong and responsive first time voters, it will facilitate and invite the mobile registration units and help provide volunteers. The visit of these mobile registration units can be further enhanced by complementary information campaigns and voters education events.
FTV and its networks will actively enjoin young professionals and students in a creative and youthful campaign to maximize the opportunities given by additional registration days.
Paula Bianca Lapuz
First Time Voters Network