There is a slowdown by the Election Commission (EC) in registering new voters, says electoral watchdog Bersih 2.0 Chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah.
She was responding to an earlier statement made by DAP’s Tony Pua, echoing the latter’s sentiment that “the EC is doing its utmost to slow down new registration”.
Speaking to FMT, Chin pointed out that among the causes of the slowdown were EC’s inefficiency and its tedious procedure in registering new voters.
At present, the public can only register at post offices or roadshows organised by the EC, she said.
In post offices, the public can either opt to register online or manually using forms if the online system is not available. The online registration can only be done through post offices.
“We have people complaining on Facebook that the forms in post offices often run out. To be honest, it’s a real killjoy when the people have to endure such situations,” she told FMT when contacted.
Apart from taking a trip to a post office, the people can also head to registration booths set up by the EC. However, Chin said such booths were often set up without adequate notice to the public.
“There is a lack of publicity by the EC on the setting up of such booths. Also, it’s not frequent enough. You have to either go to a mall or somehow know that they are coming.”
These factors often discourage the people of Sabah and Sarawak, who live far from town, she said.
“The EC may have set up registration booths in the rural areas, but if you miss these officers, then you have to go to town to register.
“People don’t do that there because it involves a lot of trouble.”
Earlier this month, an Umno division leader from a southern state was quoted by Bloomberg as saying that the 14th General Election may take place as early as March next year.
According to Pua today, there were 17.6 million qualified voters in the country as of April 2016, but only 13.4 million were registered. This meant that 4.2 million potential voters still remain unregistered.
“If the elections are held in March, which is six months from now, it means the EC will have to register four million people. This is impossible,” Chin said.
She lamented that the EC simply did not have the capacity to register that many voters in such a short time frame, as a newly registered voter takes an average of six months to appear on the EC’s electoral roll.
“When people register, you must be able to have the capacity to update within a month. But most of the time, it takes up to six months or more.
“If the polls are going to be in March next year, it means by the end of this week, the people will have to register to vote because it takes up to six months usually.”
One way to smoothen the registration process was to implement an automatic registration system for Malaysians, aged 21 and above. This was a proposal mooted by Bersih 2.0 in 2010, according to Chin.
“If the EC had agreed with our proposal, then we wouldn’t have four million unregistered voters at the moment.
“And the advantage of this automatic system is that with the constant updating of addresses, phantom voters will eventually be removed from the electoral roll.”
Tarrence Tan@FMT Reporters Online