The Commission on Elections was asked Wednesday to install guidelines for releasing exit poll results in the upcoming May 9, 2022 presidential amid plans by Comelec to extend voting hours to avoid crowded polling precincts amid the Covid pandemic.
This, as Senator Francis Tolentino alerted COMELEC officials during a Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation hearing, noting that an early release of exit poll results may influence the outcome of next year’s elections, even as the Department of Health’s (DOH) noted that the minimum health standards being imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) can extend the voting hours during the May 9 elections.
Tolentino anticipates that “increasing voting hours would likewise enable the trending in exit polling—as part of the exercise.”
The Senator alerted Comelec officials that “an early release of the exit poll figures may lead to the so-called ‘bandwagon’ effect and voters will mostly like choose those candidates who are leading in the post-election surveys rather than their preferred candidates.”
At the same time, he added that an early release of exit poll results in the Overseas Absentee Voting (OAV) may influence local voters, especially that absentee voters abroad are in different time zones and are allowed to vote earlier than those here in the country.
The Senator reminded that under Republic Act No. 10590, ballots are made available for overseas absentee voters 30-days before the election day.
Moreover, Tolentino cited an incident in the recent United States presidential elections “wherein the early release of exit poll surveys greatly affected and influenced the outcome the results, considering that it was a tight race.”
For her part, Senator Imee Marcos, chair of the Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation concurred with the concerns raised by Tolentino, noting that Filipino voters usually favor candidates seen leading in surveys.
In the same hearing, Director Norina Tangaro-Casingal of the COMELEC Law Department admitted that the poll body has yet set guidelines on the schedule of the release of exit poll results.
Casingal said they will consider the voting cut-off time on when to allow the release of exit poll figures, depending on the recommendation of proper authorities considering that there is a need for an extended voting period due to the pandemic.