Election Commission to open tender for new ICT system

The tender for the development of the new electoral computer system is expected in the next 2 months

by DASHVEENJIT KAUR & ALIFAH ZAINUDDIN / pic RAZAK GHAZALI

THE Election Commission (EC) will undertake a major revamp of the electoral computer system to support the automatic processing of about seven million new voters, following the recent changes to the country’s voting laws.

The open tender for the development of the multimillion-ringgit information and communication technology (ICT) system is expected in the next two months.

Besides managing and migrating the data of the almost 15 million voters currently, the proposed complex system needs to tap into databases from other agencies, including the National Registration Department, Prisons Department and Health Ministry.

These agencies have vital data, including dates of birth and addresses, which are crucial for automatic registration and age verification.

EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun (picture) said the commission is looking at the option of changing the entire electoral system to accommodate the new voters after lawmakers endorsed changes to the voting age and automatic registration.

“The tender specification is currently being worked out, and the tender will be called soon. We have not decided how long the period for the tender will be.

“The new ICT system is expected to be up and running before the next general election. It will contain all the data of eligible voters when it is operational,” Azhar told The Malaysian Reserve in an exclusive interview.

He said the tender document will spell out EC’s requirements to support the changes sweeping the country’s election laws.

“Once a company gets the tender, they will be working on the system, but it will not be completed anytime soon,” he said.

Beginning July 18, new voters can either register online through the MySPR Daftar portal. In the past, they have to walk to post offices or EC branches nationwide.

Lawmakers recently passed a bill to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 and endorsed automatic voter registration.

The new law will eliminate manual registration, but the success of the new voting age and automatic registration laws would require a computer system on “steroids” to process innumerable data from different agencies and updating the EC’s huge database.

The commission is already estimating the number of voters for the 15th General Election (GE15) to swell to 22 million from 14.9 million in the last election.

Azhar said the higher number of voters could also see costs of managing GE15 rising to RM1.2 billion from RM500 million in the last election.

“The secretariat is now brainstorming and looking at the cost increase in detail in terms of the automatic voting and those (new) voters aged 18,” he added.

Azhar said the commission may also need a larger workforce to cater to the higher number of voters. The commission now has about 800 staff; all civil servants spread across the country, with 250 of them are based at the EC’s headquarters in Putrajaya.

“I think there is a need (to increase the EC’s workforce). People think it’s easy. I have to explain that once voters are automatically registered, the secretariat would still need to look at them and assign locations to these voters.

“From that location, it will determine where your polling station is, your stream and all these are still being done manually. Even if all these are done automatically through a system, we still have to re-check them manually because algorithms can go wrong,” he said.

The EC in the past had also been dogged with criticism of “phantom” voters in the electoral roll.