ROSE advocates automatic voter registration


KUCHING: Rise of Sarawak Efforts (ROSE) does not see why automatic registration of voters is not possible for implementation by the Election Commission (EC) if the post office is able to read the information of one’s MyKad when one turns up to register as a voter.

ROSE chairperson Ann Teo said EC was after all already using the information available on the MyKad such as a person’s age and address.

“Further, EC is already collaborating to remove deceased voters from the electoral roll. Of course, there are concerns such as data privacy. But I believe where there is a will there is a way and this needs to be properly preceded by changes in the current law pertaining to voter registration,” Teo said when contacted yesterday.

She was responding to EC chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah’s statement that the extra sensitive job scope of the EC was among factors why Malaysia was not ready for an automatic voter registration system.

Mohd Hashim said the commission did not want to be blamed for any problems arising from any changes related to voter registration.

“There may be some things which we do not deem serious, but are taken seriously by certain parties, especially when we make changes. If we are not prepared, but we nevertheless proceed to make the changes, then many issues will arise,” he said.

Mohd Hashim said although there had been calls for the EC to implement an automatic voter registration system, the EC was confident the present system was still efficient.

Teo, who is also Bersih Sarawak vice-chairperson, said Bersih 2.0 was currently conducting a month-long voter registration campaign by encouraging those unregistered to go the the nearest computerised post office or the voter registration counters such as assistant registrar officers (AROs).

“We believe there are between 450,000 and 500,000 unregistered but eligible voters in Sarawak and out of these 302,391 are Sarawak Bumiputeras.”

In response to Mohd Hashim’s statement that the EC didn’t want to be blamed for any problems that might arise if they went ahead to change the voter registration methodology to automatic registration, Teo said it did appear that the EC was hampered from moving forward on any changes, in particular, automatic voter registration, by its own fears that it would be blamed by certain quarters.

“This, despite the fact the EC is constituted under the Federal Constitution to register all eligible Malaysians as voters. If they (the EC) do not think automatic registration is the way to go then please tell the public the reasons why they would be blamed instead of speculating about it.

Teo said it might come as a surprise to the EC that in the 2013 post-general election, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said the government would consider automatic registration for those above 21 years.

Although the real reasons were not disclosed by Mohd Hashim in his last statement, Teo said ROSE could gather from a statement issued in Sept, 2015 by the EC where several reasons were cited as to why Malaysia was not ready for automatic registration.

The first reason cited was that it would require the Federal Constitution to be amended first. To this, Teo said it was possible if two-thirds of the MPs supported the change or improvement.

“As for the fear that it will bring down the percentage of voter turnout, my response is: the EC just needs to do more voter education or awareness activities on the responsibility and importance for citizens to vote. Of course, this task is not just for the EC alone but also the political parties.

“Another reason is that many people do not live at the addresses stated in their MyKad. My response is: those who are on the roll can apply to change their place of voting if they do not want to go back to where they lived before to vote.

“Those automatically registered as voters – if they do not wish to vote at the allotted polling district (according to the address in their MyKad) – they can always apply to change the voting station,” she said.