Suhakam: Call it advance voting, not postal voting


By Minderjeet Kaur, NST

KUALA LUMPUR: A Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) commissioner yesterday suggested that the term “postal voting” be corrected and changed to “advance voting” as ballot papers were no longer mailed to the army or police personnel.

The suggestion also received support from the Election Commission, which explained that although the the mailing of ballot papers to service personnel ended in 1990, the term postal votes remained until today.

Suhakam Commissioner Shaani Abdullah said postal votes described the method of voting in an election with ballot papers distributed and returned by post, while in truth, the army and police personnel were allowed to vote in advance.

“They cast the votes a day or two earlier and it is then sent to the polling stations, not posted.”

He added that advance polling is held to allow every citizen who might not be able to vote on election day to vote. It is also held to increase participation and relieve congestion at polling stations on the election day.

EC deputy chairman Datuk Wan Ahmad Wan Omar echoed his sentiment and said the correct term was advance voting.
He said the first postal voting exercise was carried out during the country’s 1959 general election with the ballot papers sent via the postal service, but it it was discontinued because the boxes often did not arrive at the counting stations on time.

“It was such a waste. There were too many ballot papers not counted as votes. A review later discovered that the post offices did not have enough time to mail all the ballot papers to the respective counting stations.

“Since then, ballot boxes are flown in through military or police courier once it is verified and checked by the officers and the candidate’s representatives.
At the counting stations, the ballot boxes are again checked by the returning officers, who are mostly district officers or council presidents, for verification.”

Wan Ahmad said the commission was also in the process of developing a software to allow all house owners to check the number of voters in their units.

“This will allow them to check if there are other voters registered under their address. Sometimes, the names of their dead parents or grandparents might still be in the electoral roll as the families often fail to inform the National Registration Department of their deaths.

“In early days, most citizens register as voters by writing their names and addresses. Their names are still in the system because family members did not update the NRD records. Now people say these are phantom voters”.

But once the software is implemented, he said EC would be able to keep their records updated.

“It will eliminate the perception that we plant phantom voters.”

At present, registered voters key in their MyKad 12 digit numbers for details of their voting centres at the EC’s website available online.