EC studying early voting system, cooling-off period

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KUALA LUMPUR: An early voting system, also known as advance voting, that allows voters to cast their votes earlier, and a two-day cooling-off period before polling, may be implemented the country.

Election Commission (EC) deputy chairman Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar said the commission was studying both systems that were being used in several countries like Thailand and Indonesia.

According to him, the focus of the EC was to replace postal voting system, which, in essence, was as a form of early voting. “Actually on polling day not all registered voters can vote due to various commitments and duties,” he told Bernama.

Wan Ahmad said these voters had the right to vote under the Federal Constitution and that the EC was responsible to find ways to enable them to cast their votes.

He said that he and several EC officers visited Thailand Election Commission at the end of last year to learn and to study the early voting process as well as the laws and regulations related to the process.

“The purpose of my visit was to learn and study the laws and legislation regarding the early voting process in Thailand as that country has successfully conducted the system with good results,” he said.

Wan Ahmad said besides changing the term of postal voting to early voting, the EC was also seriously looking into ways to implement it.

“We will also ensure the inclusion of various categories of voters to allow them to vote early like reporters, doctors, nurses, pilots and stewards,” he added.

Presently those eligible for postal voting are police personnel and their spouses, military personnel and their spouses, and students and government officials who are abroad.

In the 2007 Thailand general election, nearly three million of 45 million electorates voted within the two-day early voting period.

Wan Ahmad also said that the EC was studying proposals to set two days as a cooling-off period for each general election.

Although the commission had asked that campaigning must end at midnight on the eve of polling day, the political culture in the country did not conform to that practice, he said.

“In Malaysia, no one wants to respect or follow the cooling-off period set by the commission. Although prohibited, on polling day many people still solicit votes, display flags and go about in convoys,” he said.

Wan Ahmad said such actions were offences under Section 26(1) of the Election Offences Act 1954 where the maximum prison term was a year or a fine of RM5,000 or both if found guilty.

Asked why the commission had not taken action against those who flouted the regulation, he said that based on the present political scenario, the situation could get chaotic on polling day.

In that regard, he hoped the cooling-off period could be implemented in the coming general election to allow the EC and local authorities to clear polling centres of party posters and flags. — Bernama