The Sun: Reforming the electoral process

The Sun Says…
The large number of those who are eligible to vote but have not registered with the Election Commission (EC) clearly signals the need for an overall reform of our electoral process. What we should be considering is automatic registration and compulsory voting.

And while we are at it, we should also think about how best to ensure proportional representation in Parliament and the Senate.
It is indeed shocking that nearly five million Malaysians are yet to register to exercise their constitutional right to vote. According to the EC this constitutes almost a third of the 15.2 million Malaysians eligible to vote.
Considering that Malaysia has a system of compulsory identity cards which contain smart chips in them, automatic registration of voters should be really a cinch. This makes it unnecessary for those eligible to vote to register.
All they have to do is to bring their smart ICs to the voting booth, according to the address in the IC. If they want to vote somewhere else, all they need to do is go to the Registration Department and have the address on their IC changed.
This is simple, straight-forward and easy, meaning we can completely do away with voter registration and automatically register all voters. Anyone who has doubts will just have to check with a national computerised centre by keying in their IC number.
But that in itself is not going to increase voter turnout at the polls. There are many obligations to being a citizen, one of which is to pay taxes. Serious consideration should given to making voting compulsory. Some 32 countries in the world, including Australia, Switzerland and Singapore already require their citizens to vote.
Meantime an anomaly of our system is that constituency sizes differ terribly both in terms of area and number of people. Using the argument that larger areas require greater representation even though population is small, electoral boundaries have been drawn such that some constituencies have as little as a few thousand voters while others have more than a hundred thousand.
That, together with our system where those who obtain the majority of votes get everything, has basically rubbished the principle of proportional representation under which it is implied that public representatives should reflect the number of votes their parties got. Thus, the Barisan Nasional, with some 65% of the popular vote, controls over 90% of parliamentary seats.
One way of getting around this is for the Senate seats to be allocated to the various parties who contested according to their share of the popular vote, ensuring that at least one house has proportional representation and that the constitution, which needs a two-thirds majority to be altered, cannot be changed at will.
These are some of the things that the EC should be thinking about and putting forward to bring about an improvement in our electoral process which is clearly deficient in many respects.
Updated: 05:22PM Tue, 03 Apr 2007