KUCHING, July 10: The federal cabinet’s move and decision to not just lower the voting age to 18 but also to implement automatic voter registration is a game-changer.
Bandar Kuching Member of Parliament (MP) Dr Kelvin Yii said that it was a significant point in the nation’s history as the federal government will make one of the most awaited administrative system reforms to not just empower youth but also to remove barriers for people to be involved in the democratic process.
He revealed that Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the Cabinet had a meeting with different opposition party leaders this morning.
“They have come to an agreement on tabling of the Constitutional amendments to lower the voting age to 18 as well as to have the political will to include the intention to introduce automatic voter registration,” he said in a statement today.
“This is not something new and it is also part of our (Pakatan Harapan) manifesto as well as part of the struggle of the current government for many years,” he added.
Dr Yii emphasised that this will eventually see not only some 3.7 million new voters added to the electoral roll if the minimum age limit is lowered from 21 to 18, but would also add 3.8 million people who have not registered as voters.
“There are 14.8 million registered voters in the country. One of the biggest benefactors of such amendments are not just the youth, but many others especially those in rural areas who may find logistical difficulties to register themselves as voters,” he explained.
“That means, a huge chunk of Sarawakians will definitely benefit from such changes as we have one of the highest statistics of unregistered voters in the country.”
Through the introduction of this policy, he added, young people and the general public will no longer be denied their voting rights just as it would remove the barriers to registration for eligible voters.
“This is the first step to increasing voter participation and will promote a more vibrant democracy,” he opined.
Moreover, Dr Yii pointed out that a modern and automated system will make the electoral rolls more accurate and current, as well as allowing easy maintenance to ensure and preserve the integrity of the ballot.
“Paperless systems leave less room for human error from bad handwriting, mishandling of paper forms, to manual data entry. Also, voters are sending real-time information to the registration system through NRD (National Registration Department), so outdated or duplicate records can be eliminated,” he elaborated.
However, he noted that much work needed to be done before the policy could be successfully implemented.
“The authorities need to work closely with the NRD for the implementation of the automated voter registration system, including cleaning up the current electoral roll of dubious voters, including those who have passed away, are in prison or even ‘undi hantu’ (phantom voters),” he said.
“While the process may take time, I am glad that the government has got the ball rolling. This is actually a political risk that the government is taking, but then we hold on to the principle of youth empowerment as well as removing obstacles for the people to be part of the democratic process,” he concluded. — DayakDaily