Bersih 2.0 calls for reformation in postal voting

The NGO urges that the campaign period should not be less than 21 days to allow ample time for postal ballots to return before Polling Day

by AZALEA AZUAR / pic by BERNAMA

THE Coalition For Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) has called for a reform in postal voting to improve and facilitate voting for Malaysians who are staying abroad.

This is in response to their post-Johor state election survey, where there were only 7,814 postal voters who participated out of the estimated 200,000 Johoreans living overseas.

One of the coalition’s recommendations is to extend their application period, which should be done as soon as the assembly is dissolved and closed just before Nomination Day.

According to Bersih 2.0 chairperson Thomas Fann, lack of registration time is one of the main complaints among Johorean postal voters. During the Johor state elections, registration for postal voting starts on Feb 9, where they only have 10 days to apply, which is too late.

“You (also) have to apply to open an account with the Election Commission (EC) and that will take about two to three days, and once the account has been created, you can apply to be a postal voter,” Fann said.

However, the major issue was the short campaign period of two weeks, which was not enough for postal ballots to be received, hence Bersih urges that it should not be less than 21 days to allow ample time for postal ballots to return before Polling Day.

All instructions should be bilingual, in both Bahasa Malaysia and English, and the witness for signing Borang 2 does not necessarily need to be a Malaysian citizen as they may be the only Malaysian living in that foreign area.

“Many people are not aware that they could vote using postal ballots overseas and I think this is something that the EC has to do better, using their position and also using the public media and social media to publicise it.

“It shouldn’t just be the responsibility or the work of the NGOs like Bersih or UNDI18 or Undi Johor to create awareness,” he explained.

Moreover, he said Bersih 2.0 received feedback from respondents on how Johoreans overseas are afraid of registering their ballot as it would not be approved.

They also feared that their ballot will contain errors purposely made by the EC, so that it will be nullified.

“Some even said that if they registered as postal voters, they cannot vote in the upcoming general election.

“So all this mistrust, I think the EC really has to work harder by providing public information about the whole process and in the security behind it, so that people can have greater confidence in this poster voting process,” Fann mentioned.

Bersih recommends the EC to stop using print paper postal ballots, Borang 1 and envelopes, and allow voters to download the PDF version of these documents through their MySPR account as this method is more efficient, faster and saves cost.

Copies of passports and MyKad need to be attached with warnings of penalties regarding impersonations and fake copies to strengthen the identification process.

The candidate’s agents should also be around to observe and cross out on their copy of the registered postal voters for their polling districts during Polling Day. This is to ensure that one voter can only cast one vote, while their attached identity documents need to match their details on the electoral roll as well to minimise any potential election frauds.

Although the number of postal voters for Johor is higher compared to the previous Melaka (551) and Sarawak (365) state elections, it still fell short.

The implementation of Undi18 and Automatic Voters Registration pushed the total number of voters in the country to 21.1 million voters, up from 14.9 million in GE14, hence also resulting in the second-lowest turn up rate among Johorean voters at 54.92%.

Fann believes that the reason why Johor’s postal voters are higher is because there are many Johoreans who are residing and working in Singapore.

“Due to the Covid-19, lockdown, many have been residing there instead of travelling back and forth, so there is a large population of Johoreans who are stuck in Singapore.

“Not to mention, there’s probably another at least 100,000 in other countries around the world, so there is a huge potential for postal ballots,” he said during the Postal Voting Process Evaluation during the 15th Johor Election briefing.

Another reason is because Bersih, alongside Undi18, have been making the extra effort to raise awareness on postal voting.