Election Commission should fine-tune voting options list

(The Star) – FOR nearly one million Malaysians based abroad, postal voting will soon become a reality.

The Elections Commission (EC) has rightly been commended for this move, which respects the right of voters to vote even when based overseas, makes it convenient for them to do so, and helps them maintain ties with their home country.

So far, only full-time Malaysian students as well as civil servants and their spouses abroad may cast postal ballots, with many others employed in the private sector left out.

Widening the option of postal voting is definitely an improvement, but the EC should go further.

The procedure for postal voting takes time, is circuitous, and thus may raise doubts about the security and confidentiality of the ballots.

Each Malaysian embassy abroad would hand out the ballots for marking by voters, who then return them to the embassies, which then send them back to Malaysia where they are transported to the respective polling centres of the voters’ Malaysian addresses.

Current technology evident in the biometric system being considered for all polling centres suggests that we can do better.

Can the EC devise a practical and secure means of voting online from abroad? It would be good to know that the EC has at least explored the options to see what is possible.

For now, Malaysians based abroad who had not been able to vote but are now hoping to do so must first register for postal balloting. This is only reasonable as they must first be on record as postal voters.

It is also only fair, since voters should show their interest in casting their votes by registering before being given postal ballots.

The EC has still to decide whether to recommend indelible ink, biometrics or both to Parliament to help secure the integrity of voting in the coming general election.

The decision should result from a thorough consideration of what is best, not from any pressure from critics or interested parties.

Only then can the EC earn the respect of all.