Step-By-Step: How To Register As A Voter In The Philippines

Registration will last until September 30, so set your application schedule now!
PHOTO: istockphoto

While some of you may still be reeling or rejoicing from the recent May 2019 elections, it’s time to move on in anticipation of next year’s elections. On May 2020, the local barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections will be held.

It might not seem as huge as the midterms or presidential elections, but changes in your local government unit officers can make huge impacts in your community. Plus, once you’re registered for next year, you’ll be qualified to vote for the presidential elections set to be in May 2022.

When and where to register as a voter

Starting August 1 and until September 30, 2019, you can now start registering as a voter in the Philippines. Offices are open Monday to Saturday including holidays, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. So for all you busy people with the typical work schedule, skip using "not having time" as an excuse!

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The application process is held at the local COMELEC offices. There are also satellite registration sites in some residential areas. Usually, these registration sites are located inside or near your city or municipal hall. You can check out COMELEC’s Field Offices Directory to locate the site assigned to your district, city, or municipality.

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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 on May 11, 2020 (15- to 17-year-olds can register to be a voter for the Sangguniang Kabataan 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.

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When it comes to the documentary requirements, you just need a valid ID to prove your identity. Any of the following would suffice:

  • Student's ID or library card signed by the school authority
  • Employee's ID bearing the signature of the employer or authorized representative
  • Postal ID
  • PWD Discount ID
  • Driver's License
  • NBI Clearance
  • Passport
  • Integrated Bar of the Philippine (IBP) ID
  • PRC ID
  • Any other valid ID with photograph and signature(Community Tax Certificates or cedula and PNP clearance will not be honored)

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:

  1. A personal appearance is a must for voter registration. Your identity, residence, and status of registration will be verified in your local COMELEC office.
  2. After successful identity verification, you’ll be given three copies of the application form to fill up. Alternatively, the COMELEC website says you can also download the blank Application Form for Registration or AFR on their website, print it, and fill up everything except for the signature and thumb mark parts, which can only be done in the presence of the Election Officer.
  3. 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.
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Note: There might be just one VRM per local COMELEC office, which means registration could take time if you register at the last minute or during peak hours. However, in some areas with several residents, there might be more than one active VRM.

  1. Afterwards, you will be given an acknowledgment receipt. Keep this stub safe in case you need it as reference for inquiries about your application.
  2. 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:

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  • 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.

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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.

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For more information about voter registration, contact your local COMELEC office.

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