Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Smartmatic's PCOS: Why 4-Bit Scanner?

Smartmatic's PCOS: Why 4-Bit Scanner?

In an earlier blog post:


you will find an explanation of why and how the Smartmatic PCOS machine passed the SBAC's reading accuracy test despite its having only a 4-bit scanner. I've been thinking hard why Dominion/Smartmatic used a 4-bit scanner, when 24-bit scanners are so cheap today. For a little over two thousand pesos (PHP2,000.00) you can buy a high-end scanner. As you already know, 4-bit scanners can see only 16-shades of gray (black and white) while 24-bit scanners can see over 16 million colors, enough for the job of reading our hand markings on our ballots on election day. With Smartmatic's 4-bit capable PCOS scanner, many people's votes will not be counted properly, and voters will not even know this. They will be totally clueless, because COMELEC will not enable the PCOS feature that allows the voter to verify how the PCOS read his ballot. Kawawa naman ang Pinoy. Magbabayad na ng PHP7.2billion, madadaya pa ng mumurahing scanner.

Dr. Felix Muga, faculty of Mathematics at Ateneo de Manila, sent us a link that explains why Dominion/Smartmatic's PCOS computer uses only a 4-bit scanner:


Dominion/Sequoia computer was designed to read ballots printed and marked by another computer that can produce PERFECTLY-SHADED OVAL MARKINGS. The Dominion/Sequoia voting system used in New York consisted of four components: (1) a big hooded touch-screen, which the voter uses to make his selections, (2) a quality printer which prints the voter's ballot, with his choices indicated by perfectly shaded oval markings, (3) the PCOS computer that scans the computer-printed ballot, interprets the votes, and counts and accumulates the votes for the precinct, and (4) the ballot box for holding the paper ballots. But Smartmatic licensed only item (3) from Dominion, for use in the Philippines.

So on election day, May 10, 2010, all voters, young and old, must learn to mark his ballot like a computer marks ballots, using perfectly evenly fully shaded ovals. But we are not perfect markers because we are not computer markers. Why should COMELEC penalize us voters by buying the inappropriate technology and asking us to to make up for the inappropriateness of the technology that COMELEC has chosen? Why should COMELEC's chosen technology fail at reading dots, check marks, cross marks, pencil marks, ballpen marks, etc, when the capability to read such markings is a condition for bidders, as stated in COMELEC's own Terms of Reference? Why does COMELEC contradict itself in order to accommodate a bidder that people are starting to believe to be COMELEC's favorite? Was SBAC's bidding fair?

COMELEC must answer these questions. It is only fair for COMELEC to do the honorable thing, and explain these to us.

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