Friday, March 25, 2011

Postal Voters - Right to Vote in Sarawak Elections for all in semenanjung and overseas..

Postal voting describes the method of voting in an election whereby ballot papers are distributed and/or returned by post to electors, in contrast to electors voting in person at a polling station.It is of benefit to people who may not be able to attend a polling station in person, either through a physical disability or absence from the locality. Absence from locality could be by reason that they may be working and/or studying overseas at the moment. This would include staff working at embassies, and other companies (including Malaysian companies) overseas.

In Malaysia, say for elections in Sabah and/or Sarawak, these may be persons studying at institutions of higher learnings in Semenanjung Malaysia, armed forces personal and their families who may be posted to some station in Semenanjung Malaysia, other public servants or workers working in companies in Semenanjung Malaysia.

For postal voting to work, the first thing required is a reasonable time after nominations are done to be able to prepare the ballot papers and to send it to these persons, and then for these persons to cast their votes and send in back in to reach the relevant constituencies before the time for the counting of these votes. 

In Malaysia today, this is a problem as the Election Commission only provides for a very short time between the nomination date and the date one is required to vote, and hence thus it becomes near impossible to do this with registered voters not in the constituency anymore. The first thing that need to be done is that the period between nominations and actual polling must be enlarged, maybe to at least three(3) weeks if not more.

After nominations, I believe the time needed to prepare the ballot papers itself will take at least 3-5 days, and the time required for the sending out and receipt by the said registered voters may be about 5 - 7 days, and for them to then cast their votes and send it back to reach the relevant constituency would be another 5 - 10 days, and that would mean that it will take 3 weeks or more at the very least. Is the Election Commission ready to do this? They must if they really want to give every registered voter the chance to vote.

Today, when we talk about postal votes, it really is with regard to the Election Commission agents/workers who will be working on polling day, and for police and armed forces personnel who will be looking after security on the said polling day. 

Things really have to change so that all Malaysian voters from a particular constituency have the opportunity to vote for their representative to Parliament and the State Legislative Assembly, and that means a longer period between nominations and polling. 

Of course, if we want to put in necessary checks and balances, to ensure that it is really that particular voter that is casting the votes, voting may have to be done maybe at specific locations, maybe embassies when it comes to overseas, or maybe certain towns, etc. For Semenanjung Malaysia, maybe this voting, say for Sabah and Sarawak elections especially, it could be on a particular week-end date at the local Election Commission offices, in the various states and maybe even Districts for the larger states like Pahang, Perak, Trengganu, Kelantan and Johor where travel time from one place to another could be large.

Maybe, for the out-station and overseas voters, in fact maybe even all other current postal voters, ballot papers would be given at the place of polling only after due verification of the identity of the voters.

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