Since the 2013 general election, the Electoral Commission has made it harder for voters to register, say the Malaysian Electoral Roll Analysis Project (Merap) and Bersih 2.0.
Firstly, the commission stopped allowing political parties to nominate representatives to be assistant registrars to register voters.
Secondly, the commission allowed spurious objections to new voters added to the electoral roll. This was most visible in Selangor, where voters linked to Umno have regularly objected to newly registered voters of a particular ethnicity whose names appear in the supplementary electoral roll.
In September, the commission made it harder for political parties and interested individuals to detect the presence of phantom voters. The commission has done this by:
- refusing to provide quarterly supplementary electoral rolls in database format (soft copy) with effect from the first quarter of 2017.
- reducing the information provided in the commission’s “Semak Isi Rumah” portal on its website.
Refusal to provide quarterly supplementary electoral roll in database format
Section 13 (5) of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, requires the Electoral Commission to provide the quarterly supplementary electoral roll for inspection by the public. Prior to the first quarter of 2017, the commission would send a copy of the entire supplementary roll for that quarter to each of the political parties in Malaysia in database format.
Providing this information in soft copy format to political parties allows them to analyse and evaluate the additions, deletions and transfers of voters to and from their constituencies.
Without the soft copy of the supplementary rolls, analysis is all but impossible. This is especially so given that voters only have a two-week window to lodge protests against the inclusion of voters who are deemed suspicious because they do not live in the registered voting addresses.
The commission, without prior warning or explanation, decided that the database format shall no longer be made available to stakeholders during the public display period. Instead, the supplementary data is only provided in hard copy format for viewing only.
This has made the systematic inspection of the supplementary roll all but impossible. This has also led to elected representatives, mostly from the opposition, having to bring their own scanners or photocopiers to these places (usually the land office, the municipal office and/or a post office) to photocopy/scan these hard copies.
In this day and age, when even Bank Negara is forcing the public to move away from using physical cheques, it is laughable that the commission is forcing the public to resort to hard copies which cannot be analysed efficiently.
Far from being people-friendly, the commission is grandly displaying that it is a backward institution stuck in the last century.
Reducing information provided in SPR’s Semak Isi Rumah portal
Previously voters could verify their voters’ status and information via the Electoral Commission’s portal, which displayed each voter’s address. Again, with neither prior warning nor justification, with effect from September 2017, the commission stopped displaying voters’ addresses in the Semak Isi Rumah portal.
In the current electoral roll, there is a high percentage of voters with no address of any kind, while at the same time there are many others without proper addresses. Our research has revealed that in many cases voter information such as identity card number, voter’s name, voting locality and polling district are the only bits of information displayed and there is absolutely no address information on the electoral roll.
As revealed in the judicial review case taken up by the Selangor state government against the commission’s recent delimitation exercise, there are 136,272 such voters in the state of Selangor alone. The problem is much worse in Sabah and Sarawak, where at different time periods, as many as 35% of the electorate had no addresses whatsoever.
Even where an address supposedly exists in the electoral roll, it is often incomplete or suspicious.
We believe the latest “initiative” by the commission to remove address information from the portal stems from several current and past judicial reviews in which various parties have challenged the integrity of the current redelineation process conducted by the commission.
This latest development, viewed together with the commission’s refusal to provide the quarterly supplementary electoral roll in a format which can be scrutinised properly, suggests that this is part of a larger, carefully calculated move by the commission to prevent political parties and individuals from discovering abuses of and possible manipulation of the electoral roll.
Merap has included selected examples of prior malpractices that have been uncovered. These examples show how this latest development can prevent future malpractices from being discovered again.
Both initiatives conceal one key piece of information, analysis of which has often led to discovery of problems in the electoral roll. This information is the voter’s address. An address is required under Article 119 1(b) and (c) of the Federal Constitution as a condition to be admitted as a qualifying voter. The key word is “resides” in the constituency.
Merap and other stakeholders have repeatedly discovered stuffing of numerous voters into addresses without the knowledge of the actual property owners (trespassing), invalid addresses (buildings which cannot be dwelling places, eg roti canai shop, workshop or factory) or even fake addresses where the alleged building does not even exist.
Even though we are living in the information age, the commission has, with its latest move, made us go back to the last century.
We call upon the Electoral Commission to provide soft copies of the supplementary rolls in database format and to display the full addresses of voters in its Semak Pemilih Isi Rumah portal.
If it does so, the commission will show the public that it is transparent and respectful of voters’ constitutional right to examine the electoral roll. If it does not do so, the public will have to conclude that the commission is blatantly taking action to prevent detection of manipulation of the electoral roll.
The public’s confidence in the commission is already low. The moves by the commission, which we have described here further, justify the public’s utter lack of confidence in the independence of the EC.