By BERNAMA / Pic By TMR File
The mention of casting a vote may bring to mind the action of crossing the box next to the name of the candidate of choice.
Some may wonder, if we mark the box with other than an “X”, will that render our vote invalid? That is not necessarily the case.
The Election Commission (EC) has always striven to make each vote count, so it will examine each ballot paper carefully to ensure that what can be counted as a vote, will be counted as a vote.
This is to reduce the number of rejected or invalid votes, and to be fair to all contesting candidates.
It is common knowledge that the right way to mark a ballot paper is by writing down an “X” in the designated box.
The “X” should be exactly in the box next to the name of the chosen candidates and should not extend so far outside the line that it touches the box for another candidate.
If a voter marks a ballot paper with anything other than an “X” in the designated box, then their vote would be placed in the category of doubtful ballots during the polling process.
This process would be witnessed and monitored by the counting agents of contesting sides.
Doubtful ballots can also occur in the event that voters cross or make other marks on the ballot paper other than an “X” in the logo section or the name section of the contesting candidates, instead of the designated box.
Doubtful ballot papers are not automatically rejected. Instead, they will be re-evaluated by polling officers such as the presiding officer, and if necessary, the returning officer or assistant returning officers at the respective parliamentary areas.
This does not mean that voters should take their chances and mark their ballot papers however they wish.
The EC has come up with a guidebook to help presiding officers decide if a doubtful ballot is spoilt or can be counted as a valid vote.
“Panduan Untuk Memutuskan Undi Ragu — Mengandungi Pindaan Sehingga 2017” published by the Election Academy, under the EC, provides detailed explanation, as well as diagrams on what constitutes a rejected or valid vote.
Referring to the guidebook will not only help settle ballot disputes justly, but prevents the EC from being accused of rigging votes or favouring certain parties.
The guidebook states that there are nine situations during which a double ballot can be accepted and 10 situations where they will be rejected.
For example, if the mark made clearly indicates the selected candidate, there is a high possibility that the ballot would be deemed valid.
Ballot papers that are slightly torn or smudged with indelible ink, but without causing dubious marks on the ballot, may also be accepted.
When Doubtful Ballots are Rejected
To make their votes count, Malaysians eligible for voting in the 14th General Election this May 9 will need to arm themselves with the knowledge needed to prevent their ballot from being rejected.
Each vote is important as it helps decide the fate of a region, as well as of the nation.
The first thing that a voter needs to be ensure is that their ballot paper has the official stamp or marking of the EC. If none of this is evident, the voter has to get the presiding officer of the polling station to sign the upper left corner of the ballot paper.
Among the errors voters make that can cause their vote to become rejected is marking or crossing more than one candidate, writing a mark that extends into the area of another candidate or marking outside the boxes for the intended candidate.
Voters that make any marks or notes that would allow themselves to be identified will also have their ballot rejected.
These include writing down their name, phone number or aliases.
Voters are also prohibited from drawing, writing down obscenities and sensitive or derogatory statements on their voting slips.
Ballot papers that are torn, or with the serial number purposely removed will also be rejected. Voters can ask the presiding officer for a fresh ballot paper if theirs were unintentionally torn or smudged with indelible ink.