For Our Future, They Said: How I Registered to Vote For the First Time

As the Commission on Elections pushes forward in giving you the #RightInformationThisElection, we will be taking you through an in-depth retelling of what it’s like registering to vote with COMELEC so that you can take part in the upcoming elections equipped with the right knowledge and insight 

Some say that today’s struggle is tomorrow’s piece of hope. In my case, it took me three attempts to officially register as a first-timer voter for the 2022 Presidential Elections. This is the story behind all three of these attempts; a perspective that might just give a couple of essential insights and tips to anyone like me who aspires to make their voice heard in the upcoming elections, as well some key details on the Commission on Election (COMELEC)’s latest partnership with social media giant TikTok as they aim to spread awareness on equipping voters of all ages the right information they need in order to vote properly and wisely.

Taking part in the country’s democratic process is essential to our identities as Filipinos

Do I have everything I need?

First and foremost, I have to admit one little thing that you should probably refrain from doing: I personally was not able to check my local COMELEC office’s schedule on whether or not they were open on a Friday. As an exceedingly busy person who had to take a leave to get this done, I was not aware that COMELEC offices regularly disinfected their office on a Friday, which pretty much sums up my failed attempt number one. If you were looking for a tip, this is your first of many: check the office schedules. Of course, if you’re like me, such an inconvenience would not deter you from getting what I need, so I tried it out again the next day. 

While COMELEC accepted registrations that Saturday as they were organizing satellite registrations in different malls according to district, it was at this moment where I made my second mistake in this pursuit, as I was not aware that mall registrations had a specific cut-off, resulting in me going home once again with a clear thumb. Take this as your second tip for registering. Remember. The. Cutoffs.

Future voters line up to register while also observing proper social distance measures. Safety first!

Many would have taken this setback as a sign from the universe that maybe I just wasn’t destined to vote in 2022; that maybe I should just try again in six years. That’s absurd. I took this as a sign to plan ahead. Fortunately enough, the right moment came when I woke up at 3:00 a.m.the following Monday. I figured that because my shift won’t start until exactly 10:00 a.m., I could quickly drive to the COMELEC office and come back just before work starts. 

Simply put, the difference in this final attempt came from preparing and triple-checking everything before going to the office, which is my third and most important tip for registering to vote. My goal was to make sure that I didn’t miss anything upon arriving since I expected that a lot of people like me would have done their due diligence in coming early and lining up before daybreak. The official COMELEC registration website and social media pages have all the necessary information for registration, such critical information regarding our democratic rights could be more widely disseminated through bigger platforms alongside their website, Facebook, and Twitter.

“TikTok is composed of roughly fifty-percent of less than 34 year-old audiences. This youth who will vote in the coming elections will play a great part in nation-building,” COMELEC Commissioner Hon. Aimee P. Ferolino stated in the livestream of the commission’s partnership announcement. She adds, “They can be catalysts for social reform, and they have a big role to determine the future of the nation. With this partnership with TikTok, we hope to bring awareness to a wider audience. TikTok is not just about dances and dub skits, as it is most popularly known.”

With COMELEC now officially partnering with social media giant TikTok, many future voters like me will be able to get in the know on the elections through credible, first-hand sources in accessible avenues. Important details such as registration cut-off times, office schedules, and registration requirements may finally be easier to catch than in my initial attempts to register.

Come to your nearest COMELEC office prepared with the right papers like these applicants

Speaking of, let’s also talk requirements; perhaps the most essential element of the registration process that COMELEC wants to ensure is correct, unless you want to waste your efforts. Considering that you’re holding three copies of your CEF-1 form, your Registration/Application Form with a copy of your QR codes, your Annex B Supplementary Data Form—and if you need one, your Coronavirus Self-Declaration Form all filled and completed, you will only be missing a couple of last things: a valid ID with your current address indicated, as well as a photocopy of your said ID. From my experience, there were a ton of applicants who went to the COMELEC Office without their photocopied ID, so please be prudent and bring all of the requirements unless you want to pay and rely too much on the office’s nearby photocopy machines, which I would deem unadvisable unless you really get out of the line.

The early bird catches the vote

If you’re still thinking that 6:00 a.m. would be just the right kind of early to get there without waiting too long, scrap that. Expect people like me who will come as early as 3:00 a.m., or even earlier. In fact, at around 6:00 a.m., COMELEC officers will already be dividing you into your designated districts, so it might be wise to apply my fourth tip which is to come with someone who is from the same district as you so that you have each other’s back in times of hassle or need. Luckily, I saw a few people that I knew who were kind enough to give me a spot beside them. Just before 8:00 a.m., COMELEC officers will start checking your IDs to make sure you’re in the right district, after which they hand you your numbers.

A great thing that COMELEC has recently implemented is that they give out sample forms to help guide those still filling up their papers. Apart from this, COMELEC also has a dedicated checker to see if your papers are good to go while you wait for your turn. This penchant for getting everything exactly right and employing new ways to ensure everything is exactly right seems to be a continuous practice of COMELEC in making sure our entire democratic process is as fair as it can be. This is why it’s no surprise that the independent commission decided to partner with TikTok in order to provide a wide margin of the Philippine constituency the right information while joining the fight against “fake news” altogether.

Long lines usually run faster when people wait in an organized manner like this. Stay patient!

After securing all of your requirements, it’s pretty much smooth sailing once you’re able to submit them. You have your picture taken; you stamp your fingerprints; and finally, you input your digital signature, then you can come home with a sense of dignity and national pride.

Becoming a part of the four million

While I was at the mall, looking at the registration area of a specific district, I had this realization that even if we already surpassed the expected voter count, the youth really pushed through in taking part of our democratic processes despite circumstances that would make it difficult; lockdowns and life-threatening viruses considered. I then remembered myself during the 2016 elections wherein I really didn’t pay much attention to politics. After witnessing the progression of our country over the past few years, I can truly be confident that we, the youth, are aware of the power of our vote. The fact that we all went through this registration process on our own violation and our own terms fills me with hope that we will do a better job electing the right officials this time.

Make sure to post your inked thumb online to encourage your besties to vote!

As a parting thought, we often hear this statement from elders along the lines of: “You have to do this because it’s for your future.” I knew that this rather individualistic viewpoint was a thing of the past, as I remembered overhearing a group of young college students in my second attempt at registering in the mall saying, “It’s for our future.” That, for me, is significant. If I had the chance to go back to the last elections, I wouldn’t have any doubts about emulating those college students who were so excited in exacting true change for the country. If you’re planning to register or have registered, please know that we are all doing this together. We are fighting, and we are winning the first battle when we take the time to register. When you can easily access and avail of credible, fact-based information available with the mere press of a play button, the opportunity to become vigilant with the power of our choices is almost a necessity.

Take the first step and register today on COMELEC’s official website. Make sure to follow COMELEC’s official TikTok account for the latest information.