Good move to tighten rules for changing voters’ addresses – but can do better

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File photograph: Malay Mail Online

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) welcomes the move by the National Registration Department to require proof of domicile when changing addresses on our identity cards.

People wanting to change their identity card addresses will gave to shown their utility bills, quit rent receipts or rental agreements. It was reported that this will one into force from 2 May 2019.

Such a requirement by the Registration Department will help resolve one of the concerns highlighted by Bersih 2.0 in the past when we detected large number of transplanted voters in the run up to 2018 general election. These are people who changed their identity card addresses and then their voting constituencies to marginal ones that the political party they support wants to win.

Thousands of such transplanted voters were recorded throughout the country, with many of them sharing the same addresses. One constituency that our electoral reform partner, Engage, investigated in detailed was P116 Wangsa Maju, where between 5,000 to 10,000 voters were transplanted into the constituency shortly before the election, with most from the neighbouring P115 Batu constituency.

Such a large number of changes of address and registrations of new voters in such a short period could only happen not only because of how the Registration Department allowed people to change addresses without need to show proof of domicile. It also raised suspicion of internal collusion between the Registration Department and Electoral Commission staff with party operatives.

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With the new requirement for those who want to change addresses to show proof of their new address, this would plug a loophole for fraudulent electoral manipulation of voters.

But Bersih 2.0 wishes to propose that the Registration Department consider the creation of a geocoded national address database (as recommended in our electoral reform roundtable report), where every address in the country has a unique identifier that pinpoints its location and classification of property.

This would not only remove any ambiguities in the electoral roll but also flag dubious registrations of too many voters at the same address and of voters at non-residential addresses. Such a national registry would also benefit a multitude of government administrative functions and improve transparency.

The tightening the rules for the registration of citizens’ addresses by the Registration Department would pave the way for the automatic registration of voters. But a national discussion should be started on whether we want to continue allowing people to choose where they want to vote, usually their hometown or to force them to vote according to their current place of domicile, in line with their latest identity card address.

Again, Bersih 2.0 welcomes this move by the Registration Department to tighten the registration of addresses. We would also be happy to discuss ways to improve the integrity of the electoral roll with all relevant parties.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee

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