Bersih calls for postal voting expansion

by ASILA JALIL / pic by BERNAMA

THE Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) have made recommendations to improve the electoral system in the country, which includes the expansion of postal voting for voters residing in Singapore, Brunei, Kalimantan, Indonesia and Southern Thailand.

In its recent report titled “Improving Access to Voting in Malaysia” the coalition had identified several obstacles that hinder voters from exercising their rights during the election.

The research noted that the present postal and advance voting system in Malaysia is limited in scope. Eligible outstation voters who do not reside in their registered constituency are not entitled to either method of voting, while those who reside overseas are limited by the time constraint between nomination and polling day which impact the delivery and return of postal votes.

Among the recommendations highlighted in the report is to allow voters residing in the four countries to vote during elections and also for the Election Commission of Malaysia (EC) to remove the current requirement for overseas voters to spend at least 30 days in the country in the last five years to be eligible.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Thomas Fann (picture) said Singapore has the largest chunk of Malaysian voters in the country compared to the other three.

“There are between half a million to 700,000 Malaysians in Singapore alone. The rest would be significantly less but if we combine all of them, the total figure could be close to a million,” he said during the virtual launch of the report last Friday.

The report also suggested an immediate implementation of the automatic voter registration system and the lowering of voting age to 18 as this would enfranchise 5.6 million Malaysians into the electoral process.

Bersih officer Chan Tsu Chong said automatic voting registration for those aged 21 and above would enable 4.4 million to vote while those between the ages of 18 and 20 stands at 1.2 million.

In July 2019, the Parliament had passed the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019 which lowered the voting age from 21 to 18 years by amending Article 119 (1)(a) of the Federal Constitution. Amendments were also made on Article 119(4) of the Federal Constitution to remove the need for voters to apply for registration.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Parliament and Law), Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said in May that the government gave assurance to implement the Undi 18 this year.

In June, the High Court allowed the judicial review leave application by the Young Voters Association (Undi18) to compel the government to implement the lowering of the voting age to 18 by July.

The High Court then fixed on Aug 23 to hear the full merits of the judicial review application.

Other recommendations made by the coalition to make voting more accessible include expanding advance voting to absent voters, improving the conditions of voting for military and police personnel, improving access to polling stations in remote areas, strengthening health and safety measures in polling stations, enacting a fixed-term Parliament Act and strengthening voter education.

Commenting on the postponement of Sarawak state election following the extension of the Emergency period from Aug 2 until Feb 2, 2022 at the state level, Fann said the move was unnecessary if the EC was able to take required measures to conduct an election during a health crisis.

He said the core problem during an election that could lead to a super spreader event is the campaigning period instead of the polling day itself.

“To deal with this, the EC, with funding from the government, can provide fair media access to all political parties to do their campaign and reach the voters instead of going on the ground and endangering many.

“This could have been done and should be done in the upcoming elections,” he added.