(UPDATED: November 11, 2020)
Americans have chosen their next President and Vice President, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris respectively, and if there's one thing you need to take away from this moment, it's that votes matter. We have less than two years until the next presidential election in the Philippines, so here's everything you need to know about registering to vote RIGHT NOW.
When and where to register as a voter
Registration is on hold in areas under enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) or modified enhanced community quarantine (MECQ). Offices are open Monday to Saturday including holidays, from Tuesdays to Saturdays, including holidays, from 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The application process is held at the local COMELEC offices.
Important: You must wear a face mask and face shield when you go to the COMELEC office. They also have safety measures in place, including sanitizing your hands and shoes before entering. You'll also need to submit a health declaration form.
Qualifications and requirements for voter registration
First and foremost, you must be Filipino citizen to be eligible to register and vote. Next, you have to be at least 18 years of age before the upcoming elections. You must have also resided in the Philippines for at least one year and in the barangay (where you’re voting) for at least six months on or prior to the election day.
Aside from not meeting those qualifications, there are certain cases which may disqualify you, such as when you committed a crime and got sentenced to imprisonment or when you are declared insane or incompetent by proper authority.
When it comes to the documentary requirements, you just need a valid ID to prove your identity. Any of the following would suffice:
- Postal ID
- PWD Discount ID
- Student's ID or library card
- Senior Citizen's ID
- Driver's license
- NBI clearance
- SSS/GSIS ID
- IBP ID
- PRC License
- NCIP Certificate of Confirmation
- Any other valid ID
Note: If the ID you present doesn't have your current address, the Election Officer might ask for additional documents.
The voter registration application process
Expect to allot an hour up to half a day for voter registration. The busier or bigger your locality is, the longer the process could take. Below are the steps when you register as a voter:
- You need to download the following: a blank registration form (CEF-1), a supplementary data form (Annex B), and a coronavirus self-declaration form. Fill out everything except for the signature and thumb mark parts, which can only be done in the presence of the Election Officer. Print these out on a long bond paper. Don't worry: If you can't print these forms, they're still available at the office—free of charge.
- A personal appearance is a must for voter registration. Your identity, residence, and status of registration will be verified at your local COMELEC office.
- Next, your biometrics will be captured digitally. Your photograph, fingerprints, and signature will be taken via a Voter Registration Machine (VRM). Feel free to ask the VRM operator to show you the captured biometrics and repeat taking them if you need to.
- Afterwards, you will be given an acknowledgment receipt. Keep this stub safe in case you need it as reference for inquiries about your application.
- You won’t be automatically registered yet! You’ll have to wait for Election Registration Board (ERB) hearing, which meets once every quarter (usually in October, January, April, and July). Once the ERB approves your application, your AFR will be included in the official Book of Registered Voters. Only then will you be considered a bona fide voter of your locality.
Common issues and concerns about voter registration
The good thing about the process is that you don’t have to do it (or renew your application) every time there’s an upcoming election. In some cases, you can even do it just once in your life. However, there are cases when you need to update or reactivate your voter registration, such as:
- When you move out of your locality (you will need to head to the COMELEC office of your new locality and apply for a transfer of your registration record)
- When your civil status changes (from single to married, for instance) or when you’re legally changing your last name after getting married (you may apply for correction or update of information in your registration record)
- When you fail to vote in two successive regular elections (you will need to apply for reactivation)
- When your registration gets deactivated due to disqualification by law (you will need to apply for reactivation once the disqualification gets cleared)
If you reside abroad or if you’re planning to immigrate, you can still register to vote in the Philippines as long as you’re not disqualified by law. As long as you’re still a Filipino citizen and you’re at least 18 years of age, of course. The process entails filing at any Post abroad or via the official registration centers designated by the COMELEC. For more details, check out COMELEC’s guide for overseas voters here.
Applying for a voter ID
The Voter ID used to be pretty easy to secure if you’re a registered voter. It’s not a requirement to vote, but it’s a handy card that can be used as a valid government-issued ID in several cases like passport or bank account applications. However, the issuance of a Voter ID has been put on hold since December 2017 when the motion to generate a National ID was approved (and signed by President Duterte in August 2018).
So until the pilot testing results are out and the policies get updated, you can’t apply for a Voter ID yet. Tip: If you really need it, you may, however, be able to request for a Voter's Certification, which has a dry seal and the signature of the Election Officer. This can be considered as a valid ID in some cases like passport application or renewal.
For more information about voter registration, contact your local COMELEC office.
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