Prep up for voters abroad

THE implementation of Undi18 and the Automatic Voters Registration (AVR) will result in a growth from 14.9 million eligible voters in the 14th General Election (GE14) to 21.1 million in the current electoral roll.

The Election Commission (EC) will therefore need sufficient time to prepare for the 15th General Election (GE15) and to ensure that the overseas postal voting system is effectively implemented. Given the speculation that GE15 might be held in November 2022, there is a dire need for the following changes to be implemented as soon as possible:

1. The EC should open the process of overseas postal voters registration immediately. This is essential to avoid processing backlogs and delays. Currently, Malaysians abroad have to register as overseas voters during a narrow time frame before each election, putting pressure on both the EC staff to process the applications and on voters to apply within the stipulated time.

2. Non-Malaysians should be allowed to act as witnesses on postal ballot documents. The current requirement that postal ballot documents must be signed and witnessed by a Malaysian citizen has proven to be a stumbling block for many who live in areas with few or no other Malaysians. Allowing non-Malaysians to be witnesses will enable more overseas Malaysians to participate in the voting process.

3. The campaign period should be extended to a minimum of 21 to 25 days, allowing enough time for postal ballots to be sent to overseas voters and returned to the respective polling stations. Campaign periods for previous elections have been far too short to allow overseas voters to receive and return ballots, which has necessitated the use of expensive courier services.

These changes can be made before GE15, as they are straightforward procedural changes within the discretion of the EC. These changes do not require significant amendments to any existing laws or policies.

To ensure that the overseas postal voting process works effectively during GE15, Bersih and Global Bersih are calling for these changes to be implemented as soon as possible by the EC and relevant ministries.

Should the elections be called later, and there is sufficient time to implement and test new processes, the EC should consider other methods to ensure that overseas Malaysians have time to return their votes, by allowing access to ballot papers online, for instance. It is crucial, however, that any new systems are tried and tested before implementation to ensure workability.

We also stress the importance of relevant government departments proactively communicating information on the overseas voting process to Malaysians abroad. We therefore call upon Wisma Putra to mobilise its network of overseas missions and embassies to support this process. For example, voters should be immediately informed that they should open a user account on the EC website to be able to register as overseas voters.

These changes are immediately needed to avoid repeating the mistakes made during GE14, such as the lack of clear and transparent information for overseas voters, and the late arrival of postal ballots that prevented overseas voters from casting their vote.


(The former is a pro-democracy organisation committed to advocating for institutional reforms, with a special focus on electoral reform, to strengthen procedural parliamentary democracy through public campaigns, bipartisan engagement with political parties and defending fundamental liberties.)(The latter is an international movement of overseas Malaysians created to support Malaysian civil society’s work in strengthening our maturing democracy by using peaceful and legal means of action.)

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