Did the AES Operate Properly, Securely, and Accurately?

The country’s Commission on Elections (Comelec) has denied at least twice in less than a year, CenPEG’s official requests for the release of public documents: the automated elections source code and, recently, 21 election documents. CenPEG on Oct. 5, 2009 went to the Supreme Court (SC) to seek the release of the source code. Last June, it also asked the Comelec to release 21 election documents, which was similarly denied by the election manager. Ruling in a different case in April this year the high court, mandated the national body to release election-related public information being sought by the petitioners. It is CenPEG’s position that what is considered as public information should be made available to be able to, among other reasons, conduct an impartial and independent appraisal of what happened on election day.

Errors and deficiencies in the Automated Election System observed or discovered before the elections, on election day itself, during the consolidation and canvassing of election results and the conduct of the Random Manual Audit have led observers to ask: Did the AES operate properly, securely, and accurately? The AES was supposed to have been certified by the Technical Evaluation Committee (TEC) that the system can operate properly, securely, and accurately provided that the proposed compensating controls were implemented.

Some errors and deficiencies observed or discovered are as follows:

    1. The source code was never released by the COMELEC to political parties and interested groups for review.
    2. On May 3, 2010, during the conduct of the Final Testing and Sealing (FTS) of the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) deployed in various clustered precincts, the members of the Board of Election Inspectors in various clustered precincts found that, at the local level, the results of the vote counts generated by the PCOS did not match the manual count. The error was attributed to the erroneous ballot configurations stored in the CF cards deployed with the machines. The COMELEC immediately issued a recall order of more than 76,000 CF cards so that the correct ballot configurations may be stored in the CF cards.
    3. Warnings from various groups that long queues would develop due to the larger number of voters resulting from the clustering of precincts were ignored by the COMELEC.
    4. On election day, May 10, 2010, not all BEIs used the handheld ultraviolet scanners to verify the authenticity of the ballot. Post election reports indicate that only about 50% of the hand held UV scanners were used on election day. (Note that the UV mark sensing feature of the PCOS machines had earlier been disabled since, according to testimonies by COMELEC and Smartmatic representatives during the hearings conducted by the Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms (CSER) of the House of Representatives, the PCOS might reject legitimate ballots because some UV marks had lesser than planned ink densities. The lesser ink densities resulted from the high speed printing of the ballots. The COMELEC had deployed handheld ultraviolet scanners for the BEIs to use. )
    5. Following the closing of polls on May 10, 2010, the AES Canvassing and Consolidation System (CCS) failed to distinguish between the Election Returns generated during the FTS from the Election Returns generated on election day itself.
    6. One of the complaints raised during the hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Suffrage and Electoral Reforms is the failure of some CCS laptops to print statements of votes.
    7. Incident reports gathered on election day and the days following indicate that an undetermined number of election returns were conveyed manually rather than through the telecommunications infrastructure.
    8. Some voting centers reportedly had only one modem shared by a number of clustered precincts. The same reports indicate that modem antennas easily get detached from the modem.
    9. In all field tests and mock election activities COMELEC and Smartmatic-TIM encountered difficulties in transmitting election reports through the hierarchy – from the PCOS machine to the various canvassing levels. The transmission problems were never demonstrated to have been resolved in the days leading to the elections. Yet in the first three hours following the close of polls, transmission of reports from the PCOS machines appeared to be speedy and perfect contrary to field reports pointing to slow transmission or inability to transmit results.
    10. Transmission of election returns started prior to the closing of polls, indicating that the CCS, Central Server, and Backup Central Servers were open and ready to receive transmissions earlier than as scheduled making it vulnerable to manipulation. In fact, COMELEC, in press briefings and announcements, presented initial transmissions and election results to print and broadcast media before 6 p.m. of election day.
    11. The Election Returns generated and printed from various PCOS machines reflected varying date and time stamps other than May 10, 2010. The date and time of the PCOS machines were not accurately set!
    12. The number of registered voters in the CCS was wrong. The display of the number of registered voters at the Philippine International Convention Center where the COMELEC was monitoring the elections and conducting the canvass of votes for Senators and Party List showed a figure of at least 156 million. The display of the number of registered voters at the Batasan Pambansa where the Senate and House of Representatives Canvassing Panel was assembled for the canvass of votes for President and Vice President showed a figure of at least 253 million.
    13. The digital signature as required by law is absent. In the hearing conducted by the CSER it was revealed that what was implemented was “machine digital signature”, something that is not legally recognized. Further, the Forensic Team constituted by the Joint Congressional Canvassing Committee found in the PCOS audit log an entry stating “No BEI key with which to sign results” indicating that there is no digital signature affixed to the election return. Further, in the forensic examination of the PCOS machines, the Smartmatic technician could not demonstrate how the digital certificate can be extracted or displayed saying that they did not have the necessary (software) tool to do so.
    14. The Hash Code extracted by the Forensic Team from the PCOS machines used in Antipolo is not the same as the one published in Comelec’s website. The Hash Code of the software in the PCOS machine is supposed to give an assurance that the same copy of the reviewed software and stored in escrow at the Bangko Sentral is the same as those installed in more than 76,000 PCOS machines.
    15. A Console Port is present in the PCOS machine and the internal mechanisms, including the software, are accessible by connecting another computer to it. The Forensic Team found that it could access the PCOS operating system without having to enter a username-password combination.
    16. The National Citizens’ Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) reported discrepancies in the machine count of the ballots and hand count of the ballots done by the BEI in the Random Manual Audit (RMA) activities witnessed by its volunteers.
    17. The COMELEC and its RMA Team reported an accuracy rating of 99.6% whereas the COMELEC had defined the accuracy requirement at 99.995%.

The foregoing gives CenPEG reason to want to review documents relative to the preparation of the AES done by the COMELEC and Smartmatic-TIM. We want transparency, because these are PUBLIC documents and because the Filipino people have the right to find answers to many technical questions and troubles in the May 2010 elections that were not answered in various hearings and which continue to beg answers.

The Filipino people deserve to know the workings of new modes of elections to make the whole exercise fair and democratic in 2013 and future elections. Posted by CenPEG


Prepared by Angel S. Averia, Jr.
CenPEG Project 30-30 IT Consultant
September 22, 2010
Latest posts
Back to top Back to top >>
Telefax +6329299526 email: cenpeg@cenpeg.org; cenpeg.info@gmail.com Copyright ©2005
Center for People Empowewrment in Governance (CenPEG), Philippines. All rights reserved