What are election returns?
Election returns are official tabulations of the results of an election in a given precinct produced by the board of election inspectors. Let me break that down.
1. Official- because none other than election returns are used in canvassing (briefly, when such returns are combined to produce/proclaim a winner), as opposed to another official copy, called the certificate of votes, is likewise a produced by the board of election inspectors, but not considered during a canvass. But certificates of votes have uses. More on that in another blog.
2.Tabulations- because they contain the total number of votes per candidate in a given election, plus the “taras” (you know this, the one-by-one tabulations that always closes per five votes).
3. Results in a given precinct- because this gives the total number of votes per candidate, as well as other pertinent precinct data, such as total number of registered votes, total voters who casted their votes, total ballots used and total spoiled ballots.
4. Produced by the board of election inspectors (BEI)- because this document is prepared, signed and thumbmaked (authenticated) by the BEI, consisting of the precinct chairman, poll clerk and third member.
According to the Omnibus Election Code:
Sec. 212. Election returns. – The board of election inspectors shall prepare the election returns simultaneously with the counting of the votes in the polling place as prescribed in Section 210 hereof. The return shall be prepared in sextuplicate. The recording of votes shall be made as prescribed in said section. The entry of votes in words and figures for each candidate shall be closed with the signature and the clear imprint of the thumbmark of the right hand of all the members, likewise to be affixed in full view of the public, immediately after the last vote recorded or immediately after the name of the candidate who did not receive any vote.
The returns shall also show the date of the election, the polling place, the barangay and the city of municipality in which it was held, the total number of ballots found in the compartment for valid ballots, the total number of valid ballots withdrawn from the compartment for spoiled ballots because they were erroneously placed therein, the total number of excess ballots, the total number of marked or void ballots, and the total number of votes obtained by each candidate, writing out the said number in words and figures and, at the end thereof, the board of election inspectors shall certify that the contents are correct. The returns shall be accomplished in a single sheet of paper, but if this is not possible, additional sheets may be used which shall be prepared in the same manner as the first sheet and likewise certified by the board of election inspectors.
The Commission shall take steps so that the entries on the first copy of the election returns are clearly reproduced on the second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth copies thereof, and for this purpose the Commission shall use a special kind of paper.
Immediately upon the accomplishment of the election returns, each copy thereof shall be sealed in the presence of the watchers and the public, and placed in the proper envelope, which shall likewise be sealed and distributed as herein provided.
Any election return with a separately printed serial number or which bears a different serial number from that assigned to the particular polling place concerned shall not be canvassed. This is to be determined by the board of canvassers prior to its canvassing on the basis of the certification of the provincial, city or municipal treasurer as to the serial number of the election return assigned to the said voting precinct, unless the Commission shall order in writing for its canvassing, stating the reason for the variance in serial numbers.
If the signatures and/or thumbmarks of the members of the board of election inspectors or some of them as required in this provision are missing in the election returns, the board of canvassers may summon the members of the board of election inspectors concerned to complete the returns.
How many copies are prepared?
Six copies (Section 184, Omnibus Election Code). Since the paper is carbonized and thus prepared all at the same time, the election returns are all original copies.
Why so many copies? Where do they go?
According to the Omnibus Election Code, as amended:
Sec. 214. Disposition of election returns. –
- In a presidential election: the board of election inspectors shall prepare in handwriting and sign the returns of the election in sextuplicate in their respective polling place in a form to be prescribed by the Commission. One copy shall be deposited in the compartment of the ballot box for valid ballots, and in the case of municipalities two copies including the original copy shall be handed to the municipal election registrar who shall immediately deliver the original copy to the provincial election supervisor and forward the other copy to the Commission, and one copy each to the authorized representatives of the accredited political parties. In the case of the cities, the city registrar shall retain the original copy for submission to the provincial election supervisor, and forward the other copy to the Commission.
- In the election for Members of the Batasang Pambansa: the original of the election returns shall be delivered to the election registrar of the city or municipality for transmittal to the chairman of the provincial board of canvassers, and direct to the chairman of the city or district board of canvassers in the urbanized cities and the districts of Metropolitan Manila, as the case may be, for use in the canvass. The second copy shall likewise be delivered to the election registrar for transmittal to the Commission. The third copy shall be deposited in the compartment for valid ballots. The fourth copy shall be delivered to the election registrar who shall use said copy in the tabulation of the advance results of the election in the city or municipality. The fifth and sixth copies shall each respectively be delivered to the members representing political parties represented in the board of election inspectors.
- In local elections: the original copy of the election returns shall be delivered to the city or municipal board of canvassers as a body for its use in the city of municipal canvass. The second copy shall be delivered to the election registrar of the city or municipality for transmittal to the provincial board of canvassers as a body for its use in the provincial canvass. The third copy shall likewise be delivered to the election registrar for transmittal to the Commission. The fourth copy shall be deposited in the compartment for valid ballots. The fifth and sixth copies shall each respectively be delivered to the members representing the political parties represented in the board of election inspectors.
1. The Ballot Box
2. Municipal Election Registrar
3. Provincial Election Supervisor
4. Commission on Elections
5. and 6. The two Dominant Political Parties
These election return copies are idiot-proof. It clearly indicates in the election returns themselves where it goes. The return itself states, “Copy for the Ballot Box,” “Copy for the Municipal Election Registrar,” and so on…
How do you determine the two dominant parties?
The Commission on Elections makes that determination by resolution before the conduct of elections.
Why are these election returns important?
Using these, one can prove discrepancies in the certificates of canvass, which are the ones considered by the appropriate canvassing board (for the President, that is Congress). These are the building blocks to prove election inconsistencies and fraud, short of recounting the ballots themselves…
So what can you comment about the election returns seized yesterday?
Just this. If the copies seized from that house in San Mateo are the opposition copies of the election returns, there is nothing wrong with this because they are clearly entitled to these copies. Hence, the ISAFP and the CIDG cannot use this is evidence of any crime and should be promptly returned to them.
If, however, these election returns are those that should not belong to them, like the election returns for the ballot box, them the opposition has a big problem… since someone is holding election returns that were not for them…
And what if they don’t?
Try charging them with obstruction of justice.