VOTER education is defined as an aspect of civic education designed to provide citizens with the knowledge, skills and values necessary to participate in the democratic political process. We need voter education to build public confidence, trust and respect.
The public’s confidence in the integrity of the election process is the main objective of voter education, which should cover election laws, electoral processes on election day, and open communication with officers of the Election Commission and political parties. Voters must be convinced that voting will make a difference, and voters must have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process.
Voter education should cover these five areas:
1) Important information required by all eligible voters should be provided in a form they can easily comprehend;
2) Such information should include essential facts, laws, procedures, rights and issues;
3) The information given should be brief and clear;
4) The information given should be in relevant languages;
5) Such information should also be publicised by the mass media throughout the country.
In carrying out voter education, the Election Commission should be supported and assisted by relevant government departments and agencies, non-governmental bodies, cultural groups, political parties, urban and rural community-based organisations and other voter education coalitions.
The Election Commission should embark on programmes that ensure that members of the public are aware that every electoral process conducted is transparent, reliable, fair and just.
A participatory voter education programme with outreach plans should seek the full involvement of major stakeholders. These plans will slowly and surely gain public confidence, trust and respect, and will restore and enhance the image and reputation of the Election Commission. Public confidence requires a perception in the electorate that political parties and candidates have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process. All stakeholders must be able to see all aspects of the election process and be allowed to participate in them.
Voter education programmes should be conducted through briefings, talks and seminars as well as the distribution of pamphlets. These programmes will be able to lay a foundation for future generations of Malaysia to have a sound understanding of the democratic process. Through these programmes the Election Commission should clearly explain the various improvements and enhancements made to electoral processes in the conduct of elections.
Well-planned and effective voter education programmes will, in time, create a well-informed electorate and generate public confidence that will erase negative perceptions of the Election Com-mission and place it among the best electoral bodies in the world.
MOHAMED MOKHTAR AHMAD BAJUNID
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