KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians who are about to go to the polls will realise that many improvements have been made by the Election Commission (EC) for the 13th General Election.
Among the improvements are early voting, the use of indelible ink, postal voting for those residing overseas, and the participation of independent observers, both from within and outside the country, throughout the election period.
Early voting, which will take place for the first time, is bound to capture the attention of many. Through this process, Malaysians serving the security forces need not use the postal voting system anymore.
Although early voting is a new addition to the country’s voting system, it is not new to many countries. In fact, early voting is present in many countries such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Thailand, and several American countries.
The EC has also published a guidebook on the polling process and vote counting for early voting, which can be used as a reference by any party to further understand the process.
The first subject dealt with in the guidebook is on electors who qualify for early voting. Based on the provisions of Regulation 27A (1)(a)(b)(c)(d), Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations (Amended) 2012, four categories of voters qualify for early voting.
They are members of the armed forces, their spouses, police officers serving in the General Operation Forces (GOF) and their spouses.
Members of the armed forces and police personnel within the country and overseas are eligible for postal voting.
The EC will be working together with relevant authorities to allow early voters to carry out their voting duties from military camps.
For police officers serving in the GOF and their spouses, polling centres will be at the designated Contingent Headquarters or District Headquarters.
If the number of voters in a polling centre is not high, the EC will combine the registered armed forces, police and GOF voters, and they will vote in the same place to smoothen the voting
The EC will use a hall or a special room as a polling centre and station.
The number of polling stations will be based on the requirement of the state and the number of voters in the division’s electoral roll.
The dates for early voting will be fixed by the EC based on the Election Regulation 3(1A) (Conduct of Election) (Amendment) 2012, which will be no less than seven days after the nomination of the candidate and no less than three days before the general election date.
Polling centres will open at 8.00am and close at 7.00pm.
If a polling centre has 50 voters or less, the voting time will be from 8.00am to 2.00pm.
The voting method will remain the same, involving the use of a ballot paper and a box for submitting the ballot paper.
In line with the introduction of the indelible ink for this coming election, all voters including early voters will have their left index finger daubed with the permanent ink in accordance with Election Regulation 19A (Conduct of Election) (Amendment) 2012.
If a voter refuses to get his finger daubed with the indelible ink, the polling clerk will not issue a balloting paper and the voter’s name will be recorded on Form 10A, which states the refusal to issue a ballot paper.
Only if the voter returns and agrees to the use of the indelible ink on the finger will he or she be given a ballot paper and the Form 10A issued to the voter will be cancelled by the presiding officer (KTM) at the polling
EC’s Deputy Chairman, Datuk Wira Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, during his visit to Bernama in January, said the indelible ink will stay on the fingers of voters for at least three days.
Once the polling ends, the KTM will seal all the ballot boxes with a mouse-tail and a security tape. Then, the KTM will sign on the security tape. The Election
Agent (EA) can also sign if he wishes to.
The ballot boxes will then be loaded into a special bag and taken to a designated location such as a police lock-up or any other locations set by the election officer in charge.
To ensure the safety of the ballot box and to prevent any untoward incidents, police personnel will accompany the boxes throughout the journey from the polling station to the storage area, where it will be guarded for 24 hours.
The EA of the polling station will be allowed to accompany the police personnel in his own vehicle.
Should a candidate wish to employ his staff to wait at the location where the ballot box is to be stored, they can do so by getting the permission of the election officer in charge.
There will be no counting of early votes at the polling centre or station on the day of early voting. Instead, the counting will take place on the general polling day at 4.00pm.
The counting will be conducted by the presiding EC officer present on the day of early voting.
The Counting Agent (EMU) will be allowed to witness the counting of votes but he will be required to present the relevant documents to the EC officer, including his identification document, his appointment as an EMU, and the completed Oath of Secrecy form.
Once the counting of votes is completed, the EMU can take a copy of the Form 14 (Statement of Votes after Counting of Votes) from the EC officer.
The EMU should allow officers to carry out their duties during the counting of votes.
If the EMU is not satisfied, he or she can send a written objection to the presiding officer, who is given the full mandate to resolve any objection.
If there is still no satisfaction, the EMU will be able to file an election petition case at the High Court within 21 days of the release of the election results, in accordance with Article 118 of the Federal Constitution.
Although early voting is new in Malaysia, people need not worry as the EC has made the necessary arrangements.
The process is not different from normal voting. In fact, it might be better because of its easy implementation.
Political parties also have no reason to worry about any cheating during the process as all parties will be allowed to monitor the process, from the beginning to the end.
This is because the EC has pledged its commitment towards a more advanced, open, and efficient election process. — Bernama