Voter turnout at 76% for GE14 — lower than GE13

by MARK RAO / pic by AFIF ABD HALIM

A TOTAL of 11.35 million Malaysians went to the polls, representing 76% of the eligible 14.96 million voters who cast their votes for the 14th General Election (GE14) yesterday, significantly lower than the total turnout in 2013.

According to the Election Commission (EC), polling day started off strongly with 3.59 million Malaysians, or 24%, of the total eligible voters having cast their votes by 10am.

Total turnout was then at 55%, or 8.22 million, persons at 1pm — lower than the 59% registered in GE13 at the same time.

The EC targeted an 85% voter turnout for the polls that concluded yesterday, higher than the 84.84% voter turnout recorded in GE13.

GE13 saw a total of 11.26 million Malaysians cast their ballots out of a total 13.27 million registered voters in 2013. This was the highest turnout in terms of percentage in the history of the country’s general elections.

Voters that showed up to the 8,253 polling centres nationwide braved sweltering weather conditions in some areas and heavy rain at others, while several were forced to queue as long as two hours to finally cast their ballot. The decision to hold the ballot in the middle of the week further meant that many Malaysians had to make the lengthy commute to their hometowns within a day.

Meanwhile, reports of unstamped ballots and delayed or non-arrival of postal votes raised questions over the efficiency of the electoral process. It was further saddening when news broke that three individuals — two voters and one EC officer — passed away due to unfortunate circumstances.

Despite making available 8,253 centres comprising 28,115 voting stations yesterday, issues over unaccounted for votes and delayed postal votes marred the GE14 proceedings.

In response, EC chairman Tan Sri Mohd Hashim Abdullah denied allegations that several ballot papers received at a polling centre were unstamped — a report which led to concerns that the unstamped votes would become void.

“The EC undertook a check regarding the issue of unstamped ballots which were said to have occurred in a certain voting centre,” he said in a statement yesterday.

“Our checks showed that the incident did not occur as what was reported (on social media).”

However, he said the incident would have been an isolated case had it occurred, while unstamped ballots were still acceptable as long as it is agreed upon by the head of a respective polling centre.

It was further reported that 83% of the 278,590 early voters fulfilled their voting responsibilities over the weekend, consisting of 159,677 and 118,913 voters from the armed forces and police respectively.

Out of this figure, 212,834 Malaysians were eligible for postal voting in GE14.

However, several eligible Malaysian voters based overseas reported delays in receiving their postal votes, thus causing concerns that their ballots will not be reached in time prior to the conclusion of GE14.

This includes citizens based in the UK, Australia and China among others.

Mohd Hashim said the EC views this issue seriously and will investigate the cause of the delays and non-arrival of the postal votes.

Several polling centres across the country were also faced with long queues and overcrowding, which the EC said was likely due to the early voter turnout that saw many voters arrive at polling stations at the same time.