A race to bring ballots home


WITH polling day less than two weeks away, Malaysian societies in universities abroad are ramping up efforts to ensure every vote reaches home by Nov 19.

As this is the first time that 18-year-olds are eligible, and automatically registered as voters, student leaders and society presidents have been working round the clock to ensure the postal voters, especially students, are kept informed about the 15th General Election (GE15) and what they need to do to have their voices heard.

Determined that every vote in the United Kingdom reaches home, Malaysian students in most varsities there have registered with the UK and Eire (Ireland) Council for Malaysian Students (UKEC), a partner of VoteMalaysia – a coalition of youth organisations around the world that aims to carry out a global collection drive for overseas postal voters for GE15.

Among the institutions registered with the UKEC is the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

Its Malaysian Student Association president Muhammad Fadzrul Kamarudzaman told StarEdu the society will set up a collection point within the varsity.

“The mailing of all postal votes to Malaysia will be sponsored by the UKEC.

“Ballots submitted to our collection point will be passed on to a UKEC representative who will then send them over to their counterpart in Malaysia,” he said.

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The second year electronics and electrical engineering student said the varsity has some 300 Malaysian students in its undergraduate and postgraduate courses.

Besides setting up a collection point, Muhammad Fadzrul said the society is also actively engaging with their students – and non-student voters in Edinburgh – through their various social media channels on the latest updates on the upcoming elections.

“We’re doing our best to ensure they get the correct information because voting is our right and it is our responsibility to help shape our country’s future.

“With the current uncertain political environment, I’m hopeful that most of the students here, many of whom are first-time voters like me, will be excited to vote in GE15 to determine our country’s future,” he added.

Cambridge University Malaysia Society (CUMaS) president Yvswenne Liew said the society is working with VoteMalaysia to get the ballots of their members and other Malaysians in Cambridge back to the country.

“As CUMaS is also a member of the larger UKEC body, we are communicating closely with the UKEC regarding vote collection, and we also co-organised a postal voting workshop on Oct 29 with VoteMalaysia.

“This is the general movement most Malaysian societies in the UK and Ireland are involved in for GE15,” Liew added.

Heriot-Watt University, Scotland, Malaysian Society president Ahmad Abrahim Andri Aidham, 20, said he will collate all the ballots from his varsity.

Like Muhammad Fadzrul, he too will send the ballots to a UKEC representative who will then be in charge of transporting all the postal votes around the UK and Ireland back to Malaysia.

“Once it reaches home, another group of volunteers will be waiting at the airport to collect and send the ballots to their respective constituencies by 6pm. “My committee and I are spreading as much awareness of postal voting as we can.

“We are sharing with the student voters information on things like how to register as a postal voter and why it is important to vote.

“We’re doing everything we can to encourage all voters to cast their votes in this general election.

“This is crucial because most of the students here are first-time voters.

“It is not very easy for a first-timer to do it from abroad so we want to make the process as easy to understand and follow as possible,” added Ahmad Abrahim.

The Heriot-Watt Malaysian Society, he said, will act as a “collection station” for all postal votes regardless of whether the voter is a student.

“We have estimated that it would cost more than GBP30 (RM163.62) if voters were to send their votes back individually from the UK. To have to pay so much just to exercise our basic right reveals the shortcomings of the postal voting system.”

There are about 210 Malaysian undergraduates and postgraduates currently studying at the university, he said.

While most of the students have been responding enthusiastically to the society’s posts and shares on social media and WhatsApp, Ahmad Abrahim said he is not sure if this will translate to a high voter turnout.

“Let’s wait and see but I’m hopeful that most of the Malaysian population at Heriot-Watt University in the UK will vote in this election.

“We all want a better Malaysia and voting is the first step to making that happen,” he added.


THE VIEWS

We’re first-timers...

"IT’S quite rare that the Malaysian society in the university raises awareness about the voting system and about political literacy. Its focus is mainly centred on students’ welfare, so this is one of the reasons why not all Malaysian students overseas are motivated to register and vote during elections. I have a fair understanding of what the political parties want to contribute to the country and most of us here are pretty aware of the current news in the country. My main concern right now isn’t about the ballots reaching Malaysia in time, but when they will arrive here in Australia because in the previous election, Malaysians here received their ballots only three to four days before election day. My friend who lives in Sydney, for example, only received her ballot for the recent Johor polls on election day. I hope we will receive it early this time around to give us time to cast our votes and to find people who can send our ballots back." -Monash University, Australia, Master of Environment and Sustainability student, Tan Ei Lyn, 24

"I’M looking forward to voting! Like most first-time voters, I’m excited and being a postal voter, I feel overwhelmed by the opportunity to contribute to the country’s future achievements. It will also be interesting because now, those aged 18 and over have the opportunity to vote, thanks to the Undi18 constitutional amendment that was gazetted last year. It’s exciting because we can hear what young Malaysians think. I hope everything runs smoothly in that we receive our ballots on time, we have time to post them back to Malaysia, and all our postal votes are counted. Some of my friends and I here are nervous about not receiving our ballots in time. The ballots will only be posted to us after the candidate nomination day, which is just a gap of 14 days from election day. Instead of depending on the post in this day and age, there should be an easier and more efficient way to manage this process." -Udayana University, Indonesia, final year medical student, Dharshinee Suresh Kumar, 25

"THIS is my first time voting in an election and I’m very excited. Over the last few months, there have been many political issues affecting the country so it’s crucial for people to go out and vote, especially the youth. We can make a difference."-University of Edinburgh, UK, third year mechanical engineering student, Ahmad Hazim Haziq Ahmad Hilmi, 22

"IT’S important for us to vote and choose the right people to govern us and shape the future of our country. The right government will be able to provide the right opportunities for the people. This is especially important for us students now that we are eligible to vote. Having said that, the Election Commission (EC) should ease the process for postal voters because many of us were unsure about the registration process and how to post our votes. I hope in the next GE, the EC will make it easier and provide a structure on the process for those who are overseas to register and vote. I will graduate in 2024 and I look forward to the changes Malaysia will be going through. I want to come home and contribute to the country. I’m a first-time voter and I didn’t think my first-time voting would be overseas. This is a memory I will keep with me forever." -University of Edinburgh, UK, fourth year electronics and electrical engineering student, Danni Izz Khan Mohd Reduan Mathavan, 21

"I DIDN’T register to be a postal voter because I don’t know which party represents what anymore and what their policies are. What happened in the last two years was so demoralising. I’m not sure anymore who has our country’s best interest at heart. Look at the age of some of the candidates who are contesting – I don’t see how they represent the youth, our ideologies and our vision for the country." -Heriot-Watt University, UK, Master’s student, K. Senthil, 25


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