Automatic voter registration a massive challenge, says EC

Election Commission chairman Azhar Harun says many voters have not updated their addresses, making it difficult to effectively implement an automatic registration system.

PUTRAJAYA: The Election Commission (EC) has manually assigned voting localities to about five million youth who will soon turn 18 and unregistered voters over the age of 21 as it works on the automatic voter registration system.

EC chairman Azhar Harun told FMT the new voters would be automatically registered once the system came into force.

He said the EC was aiming to get the system ready by July next year if not sooner.

Last July, Parliament passed a bill to enable the automatic registration of voters and to allow 18-year-olds to vote and stand as election candidates.

Azhar said the task was not as easy as some might imagine.

“People think it is simple because we just have to connect to the National Registration Department (JPN). No, it’s not.

“Once you register as a voter, I need to assign you a locality in accordance with your address. Some have addresses like Ahmad bin Abdul, Alor Setar. How do I assign the locality?”

He said about 1% of the addresses of voters to be registered were incomplete.

Additionally, there are more than four million unregistered voters above the age of 21 who will need to be assigned localities for the automatic registration.

One of the main problems, Azhar said, was that many Malaysians had not updated their addresses in their MyKad.

“What if, after automatic voter registration, there are addresses from the Pekeliling Flats and they cannot be contacted? The electoral roll would look very dirty.”

He said a campaign needed to be undertaken by the EC, the Information Department and JPN to “implore, urge and beg” people to update their addresses.

Azhar welcomed the move to allow people who have reached 18 to vote, noting that it is the age at which one could enter into legal contracts.

He said it was only fair to let them elect representatives who would formulate policies affecting them, such as the policy on student loans.

On the issue of political funding, Azhar said the National Centre for Governance, Integrity and Anti-Corruption was leading the task of handling it and that it had engaged with the EC.

A draft bill had been prepared, he added.

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