Reform postal voting before GE15

AUDREY VIJAINDREN

KUALA LUMPUR: Almost 50 per cent of overseas postal voters had problems with the registration process during the 14th General Election (GE14). Among issues they faced included poor response and lack of information from the Malaysian foreign missions, last minute rejections, application not processed by the Election Commission (EC) and rejection without reason, according to a recent data collection survey. Global Bersih secretary Nirmala Devi Windgatter these glaring failures by the EC and related bodies showed that EC needed to implement the necessary reforms as soon as possible. “For the first time, we have collected data of overseas postal voters and will submit recommendations to the EC next week to ensure similar hiccups are not repeated in GE15,” she said. Data collected from more than 50 countries, involving 1,620 overseas postal voters during the election period (between April and May this year), revealed that the EC demonstrated incompetence by not processing applications and notifying citizens of their voting status, as well as not providing adequate and timely information on the registration and voting process. “The illogical and impractical timeline for overseas voting has been well documented. “This caused many voters to spend extraordinary time, effort and money in order to get their ballots counted in time for GE14. Some voters in Europe had to pay almost RM500 to post their votes,” she said. Nearly half of the applicants didn’t receive their reply email from the EC to confirm their status, while 234 ballots were incomplete either due to stained ballot, no sealing envelope, wrong or missing information, missing tracking number and last-minute delivery of ballot by the EC. Besides that, the survey also showed that 533 ballots were not returned to Malaysia, mainly due to the fact that there was not enough time to complete the voting process because the ballots arrived too late. Other reasons were that the express postal fee was too high, voters were unable to find a witness, there was no returning address, and there was no confirmation on the ballot arrival date by the courier company. Four participants also admitted that they didn’t return their ballots because they didn’t feel safe, probably due to a lack of transparency. Nirmala commented that the fact that only a few of the participants felt that the system was unsafe, clearly showed that the majority put their trust in the EC, only to be disappointed by them. “Our recommendations before GE15 are that the voting age be lowered to the age of 18, to implement an automatic voter registration (so as to not repeat registration every election), allocate a minimum of 28 to 30 days campaigning period, and standardise on an on-going basis the system for overseas voter. “We are also calling for the EC to directly take full responsibility for the overseas voting process,” she said. There are approximately 7,979 Malaysian voters overseas, according to the EC. © New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd