By Steve Angeles and Henni Espinosa
LOS ANGELES, Calif-– Shortly before the 3AM deadline, Claire Pimentel Powers, fresh off a Philippine vacation rushed into the Los Angeles Philippine consulate to turn in her ballot. “You want to do your duty and be civil and make a difference in people’s lives,” said the last minute voter. The Los Angeles resident explained that she only found her ballot in her mail box on Sunday night and Monday was her only chance to turn it in.
Powers’ last minute ballot pushed the total number of ballots collected in Los Angeles to 3,654, the most in the Americas.
By Wednesday night, the Los Angeles Consulate received 2,783 ballots but after a last minute push through local Filipino media, just under 900 extra ballots trickled in between Thursday and Monday’s deadline.
Los Angeles Vice Consul John Reyes who overseas the Overseas Absentee Voter activities says about 20 last minute voters took advantage of the extended weekend hours to turn in their ballots.
In Chicago, one of the last minute voters drove all the way from Indiana just to be able to cast his ballot at PH Consulate General.
Consul General Leo Herrera Lim said the voter even brought his own stamp pad when he showed up in early morning.
Polls closed at 7PM Manila time of May 13. Qualified Filipino voters in the US had until 7AM in New York and Washington DC; 6AM in Chicago; 4AM in Los Angeles and San Francisco and 1AM in Honolulu on Monday to submit ballots.
Manual counting started immediately after polls closed.
Philippine consulates all over America were open all day on Sunday to accommodate last-minute overseas absentee voters. Voting was done by mail but some chose to come to various consular offices to personally cast their ballots.
In San Francisco, Doris Son Pacot-Meletis, who hails from Leyte, did not register as an overseas absentee voter. But on Sunday, she came to the consulate with her husband Robert, hoping to vote.
Doris said she could not come to the consulate sooner, because her husband, who works full-time, could not take her. She still does not know how to get around the city.
But to her dismay, she found out that she is not a registered absentee voter. “She just came to the country last November and she was a registered voter in Cebu, Philippines,” explained Jimmy Bilar, and administrative officer at the consulate.
This means that Doris could only cast her vote in Cebu. She was devastated. “We are Filipinos. Our votes are important,” she said.
Last-minute voter Rinna Baluyut also came to the consulate on Sunday with her husband, Dondee. Rinna, who moved to the U.S. in 1993, is a dual citizen. She claimed that she voted in the 2010 presidential elections but for some reason, her name was not found in the list of active voters.
“I was waiting for my ballot, but it never came,” she lamented.
For reasons unknown even to the consulate staff, Rinna’s name was instead found in the list of inactive voters. Fortunately, she was able to cast her ballot at the consulate.
Bilar said consular offices have no control over the sending of ballots, as the Philippine Commission on Elections directly handles them.
You may contact Steve Angeles at firstname.lastname@example.org and Henni Espinosa at email@example.com