PUTRAJAYA: The much-anticipated automatic voter registration (AVR) and lowering of the voting age to 18 can only be realised by Sept 1,2022, at the earliest as the Election Commission (EC) is facing constraints such as the movement control order.
EC chairman Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh explained that the nationwide MCO to curb Covid-19 had affected the commission’s plans and preparation to see the move come into fruition.
“This (date) is after we evaluated the constraints and problems that have affected the EC’s earlier plans and preparations.
“We are committed to the implementation of these initiatives that were passed by Parliament for the 15th general election, guided by Article 55(3) of the Federal Constitution, ” Abdul Ghani said in a statement yesterday.
Last November, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan, said the two initiatives are expected to be implemented this July.
He said the EC will be preparing an interim report on Undi18 and the AVR, which will be ready in September.
In the meantime, he said related preparations are under way, such as systems development, data checking and coordination, as well as engagement with government agencies, political parties and NGOs.
The EC will launch an automatic pre-registration review system on its portal in August, which will allow 5.6 million future voters to check and confirm their information.
Based on the EC’s latest record, there are 5.6 million citizens aged 18 years and above. Of this figure, those aged between 18 and 20 make up 1.2 million individuals.
Elsewhere, there are 4.4 million people who are at least 21 years old who are eligible to vote, but have not registered.
The Star recently reported that while all systems are on track for these initiatives to kick off, the EC is facing tremendous challenges in gazetting the new electoral roll after the expiry of the objection period.
EC deputy chairman Dr Azmi Sharom had said gazetting the new voter rolls is a necessary requirement with certain procedures to be followed -- such as an objection period -- before a person can vote, and pointed out the legislation to enforce AVR and lowering the voting age to 18 is out of the EC’s hands.
Constitutional law expert Prof Emeritus Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi had pointed out that for 18-year-olds to vote in the next general election, and for AVR to take effect, consequential changes must be made to the Election Offences Act, 1954, the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981 and Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002.
On July 16,2019, Parliament unanimously passed the amendment to allow AVR, lower the voting age to 18, and to make 18 the minimum age for a Malaysian citizen to run for public office.
However, the AVR and lowering of the voting age to 18 have yet to be completely incorporated into the federal legislation.
As of today, Perlis, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Sabah and Sarawak have amended their state constitutions to allow those aged 18 and above to stand in elections.