EC, when can absentee voting be widely available?

Ballot box. — file pic. // Photo: Pixabay

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KUCHING, Nov 17: The Election Commission (EC) should at least, if not all, provide postal voting options for Malaysians who are either working or studying outside their voting constituency such as in Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsula to enable them to vote in the election.

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) chairperson Thomas Fann reiterated that the EC should be willing and prepared to extend postal voting to other categories other than the present seven categories set by the EC namely the military, police, media personnel, election officials, Malaysian citizens abroad as well as students and civil servants who are abroad.

“Bersih 2.0 believes that the EC had gathered enough time to implement this matter as proposals and studies to expand the postal voting category have been made by the Special Select Committee chaired by Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Sabah and Sarawak Affairs) Datuk Seri Dr Maximus Ongkili in improving the electoral system since 2012.

“The EC should be held accountable and responsible by the public if it continues to give out reasons on insufficient time to implement such an option when automatic voter registration can be successful within two years,” he pointed out in a statement today.

Bersih 2.0 and Bersih Sabah made this appeal several times before and most recently, Bersih Sarawak joined in to urge for similar demands in their petition to enable Sarawak voters in the Peninsula and Sabah to vote by post in the next Sarawak State Election.

Apart from that, Thomas also urged the postal and early voting categories be opened to voters residing in neighbouring countries such as Singapore, Southern Thailand, Brunei and Kalimantan.

“If such initiative to improve the accessibility of the voting system by the EC cannot be fulfilled, then when is the right time for the EC to expand this postal voting category to Malaysians so that it is easier for them to vote if elections are held later within these few years?,” he questioned.

As the Covid-19 pandemic begins to take another toll on the nation’s well-being, Thomas emphasised that the EC should think of more proactive measures to ensure that the voting right of all Malaysians is guaranteed without risking their safety and health.

“For example, the EC can extend the voting period by more than a day as it is done in some countries such as New Zealand where the voting period is 12 days,” he said.

Aware of the concerns raised by the EC, especially regarding the issue of public confidence in the transparency of postal votes, Thomas thus suggested that the EC immediately conduct a session to engage with stakeholders including agencies such as Pos Malaysia, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, political parties, civil society organisations and other think-tanks.

“An all-inclusive governing session can be a platform for the EC to find the best solution to implement a much more transparent and inclusive postal voting system.

“Bersih 2.0 is ready to discuss and give suggestions to the EC to ensure that this postal voting can be carried out effectively,” he added. — DayakDaily