Implement automatic voter registration to prevent voter disenfranchisement, Election Commission urged

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File photograph: Malay Mail Online

Bersih 2.0 welcomes the statement released by the Election Commission (EC) Chairperson Hashim Abdullah, giving some clarity to the confusion over the process of voter registration.

There has been too much misinformation over the past few weeks over deadlines to register to vote and false mechanisms to register through WhatsApp or SMS.

Bersih 2.0 believes this misinformation is due to the systematic failure of the Election Commission to facilitate voter registration. There is now a situation in which voters, within Malaysia and overseas, do not know how to register to vote.

Since the 13th general election, the commission has made it increasingly difficult for political parties and NGOs to conduct voter registration activities by blocking their applications to be assistant registrar officers (AROs).

There are still over 4m eligible citizens that have not registered to vote. At the current rate of registration by the Election Commission, there is little chance of this number being reduced before the next general election.

Bersih 2.0 repeats its long-held demand to introduce automatic voter registration, based on information already held by the National Registration Department.

Automatic voter registration was one of the recommendations of the report by the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reform, which was passed in Parliament and accepted by both sides of the political divide in 2012. The automated process will further assist in ensuring voters are registered with the correct and up-to-date addresses. In the long-run it will lead to a more accurate electoral roll.

Bersih 2.0 further stresses the difference between automatic voter registration and compulsory voting. Automatic voter registration gives people the option to vote on polling day without having to find the time and resources to register months in advance.

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Registration of ALL voters MUST be a key priority of the Election Commission and it cannot abdicate its role. Bersih 2.0 demands that the EC immediately resolves the backlog of at least 4m voters before the next election.

It must also find its way into the 21st Century and start using the many tools at its disposal to maximise the number of Malaysians able to exercise their democratic right to vote.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee

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