PETALING JAYA: Electoral watchdog Bersih has called for a revamp of postal voting for the one million Malaysians living abroad before the next general election (GE15).
Bersih’s steering committee said its post-Johor state elections survey confirmed the many shortcomings it had observed in the postal voting process.
“Under the present system, the EC cannot handle more than 10,000 postal vote applications without running into serious backlog and delays.
“A total revamp of the process must be in place before GE15,” it said in a statement today.
Bersih noted issues such as the short span of time during the application period and the campaign period for voters to return their ballots, and the lack of trust in the integrity of the process.
“There is also a lack of awareness. If we look at the take-up rate for GE14, it is even more dismal. Only 7,979 people applied (to become overseas postal voters), out of at least one million Malaysians overseas – a mere 0.8%,” it said.
It recommended that the use of paper ballots be eliminated to save time and printing costs, as well as prevent human error. It also suggested that copies of Malaysian passports and the MyKad be attached with a warning of penalties in order to strengthen identification.
Apart from that, Bersih proposed that candidates’ agents be present on polling day when the ballots are counted to minimise the possibility of any large-scale electoral fraud that would compromise the integrity of the election.
“Also, the application period to be an overseas postal voter should be extended, opened up as soon as Parliament is dissolved and closed just before nomination day.
“The campaign period should not be less than 21 days to allow sufficient time for postal ballots to return before polling day. All instructions, whether online or offline, should be in Bahasa Malaysia and English,” it said.
Bersih also proposed that the witness to the signing of Borang 2 need not be Malaysian, as there may be situations where the voter may be the only Malaysian in his town or city.
It said such procedural reforms were within the present scope of the EC and did not require any major legal amendments to existing laws and can be implemented in time for GE15.
“The electoral roll has grown from 14.9 million in GE14 to 21.1 million voters due to Undi18 and the automatic voter registration. As a result, the recent Johor elections saw the lowest ever voter turnout for a state election in history, only 55%.
“Unless the EC makes a serious effort to improve access to voting, we will continue to see voter turnout rates of between 55 and 60% for our elections,” it said.