PETALING JAYA: Electoral reforms such as automatic voter registration and having an independent body for redelineation exercises are necessary to ensure a smooth election process in the future, a former home minister says.
Tan Sri Radzi Sheikh Ahmad, who sat on a Parliamentary Select Committee six years ago, also called for the introduction of elections for municipal councils and the Dewan Negara.
“We should amend the Constitution so that there will be automatic registration of voters when Malaysians reach 21.
“With automatic registration, it would be the National Registration Department’s (JPN) responsibility to ensure eligible voters are included in the electoral roll,” he said.
Currently, eligible Malaysians have to register to be a voter at any post office or EC office. Their names and details will then be up for public display for 14 days.
If there are no objections, they will be included in the electoral roll, which is updated every three months by the EC.
“If automatic registration is in place, JPN can send a card to inform individuals who turn 21 that they are registered to vote, and they can amend their address later, if needed,” said Radzi.
However, the disadvantage of having automatic registration is that the turnout may not be as high, he noted.
“That is unless you make voting compulsory, like Singapore, but I don’t think we should go that far,” he said.
As for lowering the voting age from 21 to 18, Radzi said it could be considered but felt “it was too early” to make the move.
He said the Parliamentary Select Committee visited countries like Denmark, Germany and Britain to study their electoral rolls and procedures.
Nine of the 11 suggestions put forward by the committee were accepted and implemented during GE13, he said.
To prevent accusations of EC gerrymandering the redelineation of electoral boundaries, Radzi said Malaysia should take a page from Britain’s book and set up an independent body for redelineation.
He said the EC is currently burdened with registering voters, redelineation and overseeing the entire election process, but should just focus on simplifying the election process and ensuring it goes smoothly.
He added that the EC should also make the voting process hassle-free.
Once the kinks in the election process have been sorted out, Radzi said that perhaps elections could be held for municipal councils and the Senate.
These elections could even be carried out on proportional representation, not first-past-the-post systems, in line with some reform suggestions, he said.
“Our Constitution provides that senators are elected, but we have to set up a good election system first.
“Once we have gained the confidence of the people, once people see that the election is clean and not manipulated, they will come out to vote,” said Radzi.
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