Group asks voter registration extension to restore lost months to COVID-19

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Saying that eight months of voter’s registration were lost due to the COVID-19 pandemic, members of Akbayan Partylist, Akbayan Youth, Youth with Risa Hontiveros (You+RH), the First Time Voters’ Network (FTVN), and the Center for Youth Advocacy and Networking (CYAN) trooped to the office of the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) on Tuesday and asked the polling body to extend the period of registration until January 2022.

In a letter-petition signed by more than 40 youth groups and student organizations, the youth leaders asked the COMELEC to restore the lost time by reconsidering its earlier decision to deny the request for extension.

“The pandemic has already stolen so much from us. Huwag naman hayaan ng COMELEC na pati ang karapatan mag-rehistro at bumoto ng kabataan at mamamayan ay agawin ng pandemiya,” Akbayan spokesperson Dr. RJ Naguit said.

“The nation lost close to 8 months’ worth of voter’s registration due to COVID-19 and numerous lockdowns. In 2020 alone, voter registration was suspended nationwide for almost six months. In 2021, some areas in the country lost close to as many as 50 days. We ask the COMELEC to extend the period of voting until January. Extending until January 8 not only restores some of that lost time, it also prevents massive voter disenfranchisement,” Naguit explained.

It was reported that the COMELEC would not extend the period of voter registration and has opted to just extend voter registration hours. It said that the number of registered voters already totals 61 million.

However, Naguit said that this is far below 73.3 million, which is the projected number of total available voters according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Of that number, up to 25 million belong to the youth.

As such, the youth groups also called on the Interagency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to classify voter registration as an essential activity in order for the COMELEC to pursue more satellite registration activities in cooperation with the private sector.

“The act of voting is an essential activity. It is essential for democracy to survive and prosper amid a pandemic. If we want a stronger voter turnout and a more representative picture of the elections, an extended period for registration is not optional, it is essential,” Naguit concluded.

The youth leaders held a short creative action before the COMELEC office. To dramatize their calls, they wore white shirts and carried posters saying “I-Extend Hanggang Enero.”