DAP: EC’s voter objection process hurts opposition parties

charles-santiago-ec-malaysiaSHAH ALAM: The Election Commission (EC) system that allows for members of the public to object to registered voters is proving a bane for opposition parties to get more voters onto the electoral rolls.

Out of 274 registered voters in two parliamentary constituencies who had objections lodged, only about a quarter of them turned up today to challenge the objections, according to Klang MP Charles Santiago.

He said during the time allotted from 9am to 1pm for the hearing of the objections at the EC office here, only 49 affected voters from his constituency showed up between 9am and 12pm while 28 from the Petaling Jaya Selatan (PJS) constituency appeared.

He added that EC officials refused to give him the updated figures on those who showed up as at 1pm, when he checked with them later.

When an objection is lodged against a voter, the EC will issue a letter to the voter to turn up for a hearing to argue their case. If the voter fails to make an appearance, then their name is struck off the register.

Today’s hearing for the Klang and PJS seats involved people who registered as voters between October and December last year.

Santiago represents the DAP in the Klang seat while PKR’s Hee Loy Sian is the MP for PJS. Besides Santiago and Hee, PKR coordinator for the Pelabuhan Klang state constituency Azmizam Zaman Huri was also present at the EC office.

Santiago was quick to accuse Umno of abusing the system to get registered names struck off the rolls in opposition-held constituencies.

Speaking to reporters outside the EC office, he said a conversation with an EC officer moments earlier led him to believe Umno was behind the objections and the method used against voters from Pakatan-held constituencies was proving effective.

“I questioned why the objected voters had to register (for the hearing) before 1pm on a Monday and pointed out to (the officer) that there was no way all 274 voters could be heard between 9am and 1pm.

“The response was an interesting one as the officer told me that on average, only about half of the concerned voters would turn up for the hearing. This goes to show that the objectors have succeeded in decreasing the number of people whom they believe would vote for Pakatan Harapan,” he said.

Asked why Pakatan Harapan did not retaliate by lodging their own objections against pro-Umno voters, he said: “I don’t think Pakatan wants to be part of that.”

Hee also claimed that after inspecting the names of the objectors, he found that they comprised people who held positions in Umno branch divisions.

According to him, these people included PJS Umno Wanita vice-chairman Norazimah Mahmud and PJS Umno member Azaman Arshad.

Hee also took to task the EC over the “meagre” compensation paid to those who succeeded in overturning the objections against them.

A compensation of RM100 is paid for voters who can prove at the hearing that there is no ground for objecting to their registration as voters.

“RM100 two or three years back may have been a lot of money, but nowadays it’s peanuts,” he said.

While the press conference was being held, a voter walked out of the EC’s office and echoed Hee’s sentiment, saying that she had lost RM1,600 by coming for the hearing as she was forced to forego a freelance project she was scheduled to carry out today.

Azmizam urged the EC to consider extending the time for voters to have their cases heard.

“Instead of having it from 9am to 1pm, I hope the EC would consider extending the period to office hours and not make life difficult for those who have registered as voters, especially since statistics show there are still about four million unregistered voters in the country.

“This is a grave injustice to those who had objections lodged against them, many for absurd reasons.”

Santiago said one reason an objector gave for opposing a voter’s name was that there was no response after knocking on the voter’s door twice at night.