Absentee voting to be a focus at election reform forum

Chan Kok Leong

People waiting to cast their ballots during the Port Dickson by-election last month. The Electoral Reform Roundtable, which begins today, will review the election system and laws, and is expected to discuss making absentee voting available to a larger group of voters. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, November 30, 2018.

ONE of the hot topics expected to be discussed at the first Electoral Reform Roundtable that kicks off today is extending absentee voting to a wider group of Malaysians, said sources.

Under current laws, absentee or advance voting is limited to Malaysians who cannot vote on polling day at their assigned polling stations, officials on duty during polling day and police personnel.

“By opening it up (subject to geographical concerns), more Malaysians will be able to vote without incurring hefty travel costs,” a source told The Malaysian Insight.

Under Section 3 of the Elections Act 1958, advance voting is allowed for those defined by the Election Commission as election officers, candidates, election agents, booth observers, counting agents and political party representatives who have to be on duty on polling day. Members of the police force are also included in this list. 

The source said among the suggestions that will be made at the roundtable is extending advance voting to civilian voters who live outside their voting region.

This could be voters from Sabah and Sarawak who live and work in the peninsula, he said.

“This will encourage more people to vote.”

Besides absentee voting, the roundtable will also feature presentations from Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) members and experts on redelineation, electoral roll, electoral integrity, party funding, caretaker government, election offences and the independence of the EC.

The list of international speakers expected at the two-day meeting includes British EC chairman John Holmes, Kofi Annan Foundation president Alan Doss, Aarhus University Professor Jorgen Elklit and Keio University Professor Yuko Kasuya.

Local experts involved in the roundtable are ERC chairman Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman, EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun, Penang Institute’s Dr Wong Chin Huat and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Associate Professor Dr Faisal Hazis.

ERC, formed in August, is tasked with reviewing the election system and laws, following allegations of irregularities in the 14th general election and this year’s redelineation proposal. The commission is headed by former EC chief Ab Rashid Ab Rahman.

The roundtable is organised by the Dewan Rakyat speaker’s office, the EC, Global Bersih, Bersih 2.0, Kofi Annan Foundation, International Foundation for Electoral Systems, and International Ideas. – November 30, 2018.

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