Thousands of ballot papers unreturned

The Sun
PETALING JAYA (March 10, 2008): It is normal in general elections for some ballot papers to be unreturned, although it is an offence to take out such material from a polling centre. But why would people take out ballot papers by the thousands?
This was what happened in the Lumut parliamentary and Pangkor state constituencies in Perak in Saturday’s general election, where 2,948 and 1,730 ballot papers were unreturned, respectively.
Datuk Kong Cho Ha (BN-MCA) won Lumut with a 298-vote majority, and Zambry Abdul Kadir (BN-Umno) won Pangkor with a 5,785-vote margin.
Election Commission (EC) secretary Datuk Kamaruzaman Mohd Noor, when asked about this, told theSun it was not normal for so many ballot papers to be unreturned, but could not say why voters did such a thing.
“That you will need to ask why the voters had taken their ballot papers home and you should also ask the state EC director,” he said.
Perak’s EC director, Ahmad Adli Abdullah, could not be contacted for comment.
Kamaruzaman was quoted during the Ijok by-election last year that under Section 3(1) of Election Offences Act 1954, it was an offence not to return a ballot paper.
“The booth to mark the ballot paper is a private place. If the voter keeps the ballot paper as a souvenir, there is nothing we can do,” he said.
He said that if voters are caught with the ballot paper on them, they can be liable to a two-year jail term and a fine of RM5,000, or both.
Asked why there was a delay in announcing election results last Saturday, Kamaruzaman said the results were announced as early as 7.50pm, which can be considered good compared with the last election, when the Bukit Bintang parliamentary seat result was only announced the next day because of the recounting of votes.
Asked why some returning officers decided to announce the results as late as midnight when the candidates themselves had known unofficially about their victories or loses, Kamaruzaman said the returning officers had to check and send the results to the state EC office to counter-check and get clearance before announcing the results.
“We have to do this because we do not want to repeat the mistake in Pasir Puteh during the 2004 election when the returning officer erroneously announced the PAS candidate, Kalthom Othman, as the elected MP (when Umno candidate Che Min Che Ahmad should have been the winner),” he said.