PETALING JAYA: An early registration deadline for postal votes could increase the turnout in the upcoming six state elections provided the Election Commission (EC) fixes the process to collect these votes, say political observers.
Electoral reform groups and politicians lauded the EC’s announcement on Thursday that applications for postal voting will be opened from June 15 for three categories of voters.
However, they urged the EC to expand those eligible for overseas postal votes to include Malaysians working in Sabah and Sarawak but who vote in the peninsula.
They estimated that the early registration would give the EC and postal voters six weeks to register, collect and return their ballots in time for the state polls that are expected to be held in early August.
“This is in sharp contrast to the 13-day window that overseas Malaysians had during GE15 (the 15th General Election),” said Bersih chairman Thomas Fann.
He said the June 15 deadline will give more time for people to be aware of this voting facility and add to a higher participation in the upcoming polls.
Currently, there are three categories of individuals eligible for postal voting – EC officials, election workers and media personnel (Category 1A); voters outside Malaysia (1B); and staff members of other government agencies (1C).
Applications for all categories must be made online at https://myspr.spr.gov.my.
Voters abroad should contact the EC via email at email@example.com to verify their last known address by June 23, said EC secretary Datuk Indera Ikmalrudin Ishak.
The deadline for applications for those in the 1A category is three days before nomination day.
The deadline for the 1B and 1C categories are three and six days, respectively, after the special EC meeting to determine the dates of the polls.
Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Penang, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu are expected to dissolve their state assemblies this month to pave the way for polls speculated to be held in August.
Currently, overseas voters only receive their ballots after they register their address where they are based with the EC.
They then have to mail the ballots back to the constituency they vote in.Another electoral reform group, Undi18, said despite the historic increase in postal vote applications during GE15 at more than 48,000, not all managed to cast their votes because of flaws in the current system.
Of the over 48,000 eligible postal voters in GE15, volunteers in the VoteMalaysia initiative managed to bring back 73% of them, said Undi18 co-founder Tharma Pillai.
The rest either mailed the ballots back themselves or were unable to do so, he said.
“We have instances where postal ballots only arrived at the addresses of overseas voters a day before the election or after the election,” he added.
Tharma said this time, the EC’s decision will give the commission more time to process applications and ensure that the ballots reach overseas Malaysians in time for them to mail it back.
“The challenge is getting these ballots back to Malaysia on election day and for this, the EC should make use of all our foreign missions to collect the votes and send them back,” he added.
Amanah vice-president Datuk Mahfuz Omar echoed the view, urging the EC to fix this part of the postal voting process.
“In the past, many of these ballots did not reach voting centres in time.
“The EC needs to fix this, otherwise it will create the perception among overseas Malaysians that why should they bother?” he added.
PKR communications director Lee Chean Chung said the EC should extend the categories for overseas Malaysians to include those residing in Sabah and Sarawak.