Register voters automatically; reduce voting age

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It defies all logic that in this era of efficient, electronic government, the Election Commission cannot link its computer system with that of the National Registration Department (NRD), says Andrew Aeria.

Photo credit: hazuism.blogspot.com

Currently, there is no automatic registration of voters in Malaysia. This is unacceptable since it defeats the process of equal participation and democratic choice in the electoral process. It disenfranchises over 3.7m eligible voters in the country who are not registered.

The current registration process of the Election Commission (EC/SPR) relies on registration of a voter on an official form. This is cumbersome and lengthy (taking over three months to process) and reflects poorly on bureaucratic efficiency in an era of electronic government.

It defies all logic that in this era of efficient, electronic government, the Election Commission cannot link its computer system with that of the National Registration Department (NRD). It is entirely possible to automatically and systematically capture new voter registration when citizens renew their ICs at age 21; and also to delete voters from the electoral roll on registration of deaths with the NRD. The internet era not only allows for this; it can facilitate this in a seamless fashion – provided there is the political will to do this.

It is also deeply unfair to the rural population to continue to refuse them the introduction of automatic registration. Many rural Sarawakians live far away from government access and can only access government services irregularly. Those farthest away – like the Penans of Ulu Belaga and Ulu Baram – indeed cannot even register to get ICs. And if that is difficult, what more their problems of getting onto the electoral rolls? Hence, there is a genuine need for automatic registration of voters.

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Furthermore, maintaining the current age of voting at 21 is illogical. Individuals in Malaysia can marry and legally enter into contracts by the age of 18. This means that Malaysian law recognises all individuals as being capable of mature judgement once they reach the age of 18. Hence, if someone can decide whom he/she wants as a life partner and if someone can decide what legal contract they wish to enter into on a long or short term basis, it defies logic that they cannot be allowed to exercise sound judgement and vote for their choice of government when they reach the age of 18.

The voting age in all Southeast Asian countries is 18 years except for Indonesia and East Timor (17 years). Only Singapore and Malaysia maintain an outdated mindset in maintaining the voting age at 21 with no substantive reasons for doing so.

Recommendations

  • that the Parliamentary Select Committee recommends the lowering of the voting age to that of 18 immediately.
  • that the Parliamentary Select Committee recommends the Election Commission link up its computer system with that of the NRD to facilitate automatic registration of voters at age 18 and automatic deletion of voters on registration of their death.

The above submission was made by Aliran exco member Dr Andrew Aeria during his submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Electoral Reforms in Kuching on 9 December 2011

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Isma

Two sets of words stand out in this article, ‘defies logic’ and ‘political will’. Indeed, anything against the interest of UMNO/BN, will proceed against the current of logic simply because of ‘political will’, or lack thereof, whichever is applicable. So what else is new?