Bersih pushes advanced voting for Sabah, Sarawak voters

maria-chin-abdullah-bersih20-sabah-sarawak

PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 has urged the authorities to implement advanced voting for East Malaysian voters living in the peninsula and West Malaysians living in Sabah and Sarawak.

Speaking at a press conference at the launch of Bersih’s campaign today, chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah said there were over 150,000 registered voters from Sabah and Sarawak living in Peninsular Malaysia.

“Each election, these voters must spend hundreds of ringgit and find time to make the journey back to their home constituencies in order to vote,” she told reporters at the Bersih headquarters here.

Allowing them to become advanced voters like the police and army personnel would help boost voter turnout and allow the government and the Election Commission (EC) to demonstrate their commitment to protecting the voting rights of all in the lead-up to the 14th general election (GE14), she said.

Maria also highlighted the need for security and transparency in the advanced voting system, suggesting that voters be allowed to vote a day before the election instead of the usual five days.

Votes should also be counted on the same day, before the actual polling day, she said.

This would limit the problem of ballot boxes being moved, which she said had been an issue in the 13th general election (GE13).

“This would also ensure that we are not faced with problems of storing the ballot boxes for five days.”

In a press statement issued today, the Bersih steering committee said it had developed a comprehensive proposal for absentee voting which was submitted to the EC in May, and to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Paul Low in July.

The proposal included changes to advance and postal voting to streamline the process and ensure the potential for fraud in the storage and transportation of ballots is eliminated.

However, it said there had been no response to its submissions to date.

Speaking after the launch of Bersih’s campaign, Sarawakian Kumbang Samat, who has been in Peninsular Malaysia since 1998, said it was difficult to fork out money for flight tickets every election as he has a wife and children to support.

“I would rather use the money to go back to celebrate Gawai or Chinese New Year,” he said, adding however that this meant he would not be able to vote at all.