FOR the first time in the history of the country, teenagers will head to the ballot box in an election as those aged 18 to 20 join the electorate.
An estimated 750,000 new voters are expected to cast their votes in the coming Johor state election. The number of voters overall in the state will increase to over 2.5 million compared with 1.8 million in the 14th general election (GE14) in 2018.
No doubt that this would be a challenge for political parties who will now have to use new approaches to woo younger voters.
I, for one, am thrilled to see the younger generation given a chance to have their voices heard. I believe they have much to say and I hope this could be translated into their votes.
Most importantly, I'm thrilled to finally get a chance to cast my own vote. Four years ago, I missed out on this opportunity thanks to my own "wait until the last minute" attitude.
I turned 21 in 2016, meaning that I had about two years to register to be a voter.
Unfortunately, I waited until about two months before GE14 to drag myself to a post office and get myself registered.
When the polling date was finally announced, I found out that I was not eligible to vote due to the late registration. I was very disappointed, mostly with myself.
The regret intensified on May 9, as I was covering the election, knowing that I, myself, would not be able to vote. Every time I check my social media, I see a new photo of the purple electoral indelible ink on someone's fingers being posted accompanied by a line or two about democracy.
However, this time, at the age of 27, I will finally exercise my duty to cast my vote during an election. I am extremely excited to take part in the process.
I am a registered voter for the Pulai Sebatang state seat in Pontian. Yes, I've checked. I have been obsessing over this a little too much in the past few days. Checking the Election Commission (EC)'s website several times just to make sure that my name is really there.
I plan to head to the polling station early on voting day as I cannot afford to miss another chance to vote again.
In the past few weeks, talks of a state election taking place have been rife and finally on Sunday (Jan 23), all questions were answered when Johor Sultan, His Majesty Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Iskandar, assented to the dissolution of the 56-seat state assembly, paving the way for a state election to take place.
I have talked to people from all walks of life during the same period and I get the sentiment that many are not too excited to vote in this election.
Even several new young voters I spoke to were not that thrilled over the idea of casting their votes for the first time.
Some have even decided on staying away from the voting booth this time around as they felt that their votes do not matter.
While I understand the frustration over the political developments in the past few years, I still believe that election is the best way for us to have our voices heard.
I hope that Johoreans will find in their hearts to come home and cast their votes in this election.
The younger generation, especially, should make use of this opportunity to choose their leaders carefully. Every vote counts in this state election.
I like to point out that the implementation of Undi18 was not one that came easily. It took effort and support from so many quarters before we finally saw it coming true.
It would be such a waste to miss out on this opportunity. Take it from someone who missed out on the chance to vote.
The automatic voter registration is also a great move, as it will prevent Malaysians from missing out on practising their rights if they made the same mistake I did.
On the other hand, I understand that many living outside Johor, especially the thousands of our citizens in Singapore may find it difficult to return home for the election.
As such, I hope that postal voting could be implemented smoothly without delays. In GE14, some Malaysians living abroad claimed to have received their ballot papers late. This should not happen again.
It is not fair for a citizen to lose their voting rights just because they are not residing in Johor.
There are also fears of a Covid-19 cluster emerging from this election, especially with the looming threats of its Omicron variant.
I hope that political parties will do the responsible thing and implement safety measures during their campaign period. Most importantly, voting day must be conducted with caution and full adherence to SOPs to avoid the spread of the disease.
Voters should also play their part in keeping a safe distance and keep their masks on at all times.
This will be a historic state election and as a first-time voter, I look forward to casting my ballot for a candidate who will look into all our needs as a Malaysian.