Elections 1990: Irregularities on the electoral rolls


Pages From the Past looks back at the 1990 general election and finds that the problems of phantom voters and unreliable electoral rolls are not new phenomena.

A condition for elections to be fair is that the electoral rolls containing the list of people eligible to vote must be clean. Numerous complaints concerning the electoral rolls used for the General Elections held on 20-21 October, however, put to question how clean the rolls were.

Some complain that though they had registered during the voter registration exercise in March, their names could not be found on the official lists of electors used during polling. These omissions deprived countless eligible voters of their right to choose representatives for Parliament and State Assemblies.

Slightly more mystifying was the problem of ‘phantom voters’. For instance, an Indian lady from Ampang, Selangor received four voting cards (informing voters where they should go to vote) that were sent to her house bearing messages to vote Barisan; the curious thing was that the cards were addressed to Malay names though no one with such names had lived in the house for the 21 years she had been there. There are many other reports of people registered as electors with a certain address though these persons do not actually live there.

These ‘phantom’ include a list of 17 names registered as living at the address of a factory in Penang.

The existence of phantom voters on the rolls was one of the grounds for which Haji Sulaiman bin Kamaruddin sought an order from the High Court to instruct the Election Commission to rectify the rolls for the parliamentary constituency of Sepang and the Selangor State Assembly seats of Dengkil, Sg. Pelek and Batu Laut. The judge threw out the application, ruling that the matter had to be first brought to the attention of the Election Commission and Haji Sulaiman had not done so. However, in his judgment Mr. Justice Datuk Wira Wan Yahya Pawan Teh said “the facts in the case (are) startling”.