BALLOTS for postal voters — especially for those abroad — must be sent immediately if they are to reach Malaysia by Nov 19.
With candidate nominations concluded yesterday, Malaysian students in foreign institutions are eagerly waiting to receive the ballots so that they can exercise their right to vote.
While voting is a fundamental democratic principle, it can be a tedious and intimidating process for postal voters, especially for first-timers who are unsure how to go about it.
During the 14th General Election (GE14), the efficiency of the postal voting system came under close scrutiny, as student voters overseas struggled with issues of cost, time and the lack of clarity, Undi18 co-founder and advocacy director Tharma Pillai told StarEdu.
“They were confused about what needed to be done, what the process entailed, and how to send their votes back to the Election Commission (EC) on time.
“Time was the biggest problem.“The EC has limited time and resources to send the ballots to postal voters scattered around the world.
“It takes at least two to three working days after the candidate nomination day for the ballots to be processed and sent out.
“After that, it can take them up to seven working days for the ballots to reach the addresses registered for postal voting overseas,” he explained.
Tharma said he is worried that with the current postal voting mechanism, the short 14-day campaign period, and the high cost involved in sending the ballots back to Malaysia, it may be “impossible” for those overseas to send their votes home by Nov 19, which is when Malaysians go to the polls.
“This is why coordination is crucial if we are to address these postal voting issues and to make sure that all votes are counted,” he said, adding that Undi18 would work closely with VoteMalaysia to ensure a smoother process as compared to GE14.
However, this could be a bigger challenge for the team, said Tharma, as there is a possibility that more Malaysians have registered as postal voters this time around.
According to the EC, there is an increase of more than six million voters who are eligible to vote in GE15 compared to GE14 in 2018, when there were 14.9 million.
As it stands, 21.1 million Malaysians are eligible to vote in GE15, with nearly 1.4 million of them aged between 18 and 20. VoteMalaysia United Kingdom and Ireland secretary Muhammad Aqmar Putra Permata said the coalition, which involves a worldwide partnership of 18 student organisations, will be carrying out a global collection drive for the first time for overseas postal voters for GE15.
VoteMalaysia is a global coalition of youth organisations that was formed after Undi18 and the Malaysian National Liaison Committee UK identified flaws in the postal voting process during the Johor polls in March this year. The main shortcomings were:
> many overseas voters were unable to register as postal voters;
> the short campaign period meant there was a higher risk of the ballots not reaching Malaysia in time;
> the ballot papers arrived in the UK either later than the date promised, did not arrive at all or, in some cases, were sent to the wrong addresses; and
> voters had to post their ballots back individually which cost them up to GBP30 (RM163.62) per person because requests to make the Malaysian High Commission office in the UK as a polling station was not accepted.
But Muhammad Aqmar said the movement aims to fly the ballots they have collected back to Malaysia in time for GE15.
He is hopeful that through its global collaborations and workshops to assist voters and disseminate information, there will be a big turnout for GE15 of some 50,000 votes from overseas voters.
“Most of them will be student voters.
“It is our duty as student leaders to ensure that adequate assistance and support are provided so that all students can exercise their right to vote,” he added.