Why forfeit your rights?

Will the number of spoilt votes be higher? Or will Malaysians be wiser?

By P PREM KUMAR / Pic By TMR

It is just a simple act of marking an “X” in the empty box next to the candidate’s name and party logo on the ballot paper.

But even marking an “X” is difficult for many voters. At the last general election in 2013, some 332,297 Malaysians failed to mark their ballot papers according to the Election Commission’s (EC) rules.

Due to the simplicity of the act to vote, some pundits said spoilt votes are an indication of voter dissatisfaction with their ballot choices, and has been a growing concern since the 12th General Election in 2008, which recorded a staggering 324,120 spoilt votes.

Next week on May 9, 14.97 million voters will once again be entrusted to legibly mark their “X” correctly to choose the government for the next five years, and there is already a concern that, at a time when every vote will count in this tight race, a “Spoil the Vote” campaign has already taken hold among some Malaysians.

Will the number of spoiled votes be as high? Or will Malaysians be wiser not to waste their time and effort before plonking the valuable piece of paper into the ballot box?

Campaign to Disregard Voting Rights

Voting is a citizen’s basic responsibility for the nation, and a democratic way to preserve the country’s peace and prosperity on a foundation that was built by the elders.

Calls for people to spoil their vote at the polling booths — as a sign of protest to both sides of political factions in the country — have recently been a widespread campaign on social net- working platforms and online media.

There is even an “Undi Rosak” (spoiled votes) movement online with a hashtag #undirosak.

While voters have a choice to protest by either not turning up on May 9 to vote, or spoil their ballot papers — the trend is certainly unbecoming and not in line with the country’s democratic process.

Spoiling votes equates to diffusing a voter’s power to elect the MP or political party who would be mandated to eventually determine the government that will rule Malaysia on May 10.

How is a Vote Spoilt or ‘Disqualified’?

In the polling process, a vote is deemed to be damaged if the ballot papers are marked incorrectly — intentionally or unintentionally.

Spoilt votes will not be included in the counting of total votes.

Ballot papers which will be declared spoilt are empty papers; or those marked outside the voting box; ticked on more than one candidates’ box; ballot papers with any identification marks; as well as those that are torn.

However, the “X” mark is not the only marking style accepted by the EC. Voters can choose to tick, draw a circle, or even draw pictures in the box for one candidate.

Spoilt Votes Could Determine the Winner

Spoilt votes can also be viewed as a simple illustration of faith among voters for the candidates in their constituencies, especially in the “grey seats” which neither party can declare as its stronghold.

For instance, in the last 2013 election, of the 222 parliamentary constituencies, Cameron Highlands had the highest percentage of rejected votes against the total number of votes casted.

During that year, Cameron Highlands recorded 877 rejected votes, or 3.1% of the total votes casted, which was larger than the majority of 462 votes that was won by the then MIC president Datuk Seri G Palanivel.

In Bachok, former Deputy Minister Datuk Dr Awang Adek Hussin lost to PAS candidate Ahmad Marzuk Shaary with a majority of 201 votes, while the spoilt votes stood at 947, or 1.2% of the total votes casted.

MCA president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai narrowly won his Bentong seat with a majority of 379 votes against DAP’s Wong Tack. Of the total, 988 votes, or 1.6%, were rejected.

Sungai Besar’s Barisan Nasional (BN) candidate, the late Tan Sri Noriah Kasnon, and Kuala Selangor BN candidate Datuk Seri Dr Irmohizam Ibrahim won their constituencies with narrow margins of 399 and 460 votes respectively.

The spoilt votes in Sungai Besar was 690, or 1.6% of the votes polled, while Kuala Selangor saw 934 disqualified votes, or 1.5% of the total votes.