Postal voting facilitates manipulation

Press Statement
21 August 2008

Postal voting facilitates manipulation: The police and military should vote in the same manner as other citizens
The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH) disagrees with the government’s insistence to keep postal voting for the police and military voters. We say that this is intended to allow the Barisan Nasional (BN) to continue to use postal votes to manipulate the electoral outcome. It also keeps our postal voters as “second-class voters”. BERSIH also calls upon the Police (PDRM), the Election Commission (SPR) and Anti-Corruption Agency (BPR) to ensure the Permatang Pauh by-election is corruption-free.
BERSIH says that the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nazri Abdul Aziz’s answer to the question by Loh Gwo-Burne MP (PKR- Kelana Jaya) is misleading and insulting the intelligence of the Malaysian public. Nazri claimed that “to abolish the system is not possible as it is the basic rights of Malaysian citizens abroad like soldiers and their spouses, police officers as well as other government servants and students.”
It is dishonest to suggest that BERSIH wants to completely abolish postal voting and disenfranchise the police, the military and citizens abroad. We have never said that. BERSIH points out that there are two types of postal voters:
(a) “absent voters” (military personnel, public servants and tertiary students abroad and their spouses) as well as police personnel and spouses who are registered on a separate list [Section 6(2), Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002];
(b) election workers, Election Commissioners and other ordinary voters authorized by the Election Commission to vote by postal ballots. [Section 3, Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003]
BERSIH’s proposition is for all military and police officers to list as ordinary voters and only those on duty on polling day can vote via postal ballots. Soldiers who are stationed in large numbers at particular bases or army camps ought to vote there just like any other voters with a polling centre being set up there. The rest could either be registered to vote at poling centres nearest to their work places or, if they prefer, at their home addresses. In other words, the separate list of postal votes should consist of only Malaysians abroad, which BERSIH believes should include all eligible citizens and not limited to civil servants and university students.
In fact, using the phrase “postal vote” is a complete misnomer as what is actually happening is not even a proper postal vote. Practically all soldiers and police PHYSICALLY collect their ballot paper at their respective work places. If they are doing that there is no reason for them not to vote like all other citizens – i.e. is a transparent manner observed by the EC and the political parties.
Even for those policemen and EC workers who are allocated for work on polling day, there is no reason why arrangements cannot be make for them to vote at prescribed places in a transparent manner just like what is happening how with the so-called postal vote.
BERSIH stresses that the military and police voters have been made “second-class” voters as separately-listed postal voters. As suggested by numerous allegations of ballot stuffing, proxy voting, violation of secrecy and intimidations, they are likely to be deprived of the right to vote freely and secretly.
In the case of Setia Wangsa, observers from political parties were told to “observe” the process from 100 metres away making the entire observation ludicrous and meaningless. EC officials appeared to be mere by-standers in the process.
In fact, many of them were outright disenfranchised – for five consecutive elections in which data are available since 1990, the parliamentary constituency of Lumut alone has recorded the unreturned ballots from 2,763 to 5,486. The Election Commission chief Tan Sri Abdul Rashid has admitted that the unreturned ballots were mainly due to postal voting.
A separate list of postal voters, which amounts to 244,881 or 2.3% of the total registered voters, has become an easy victim to gerrymandering and mal-apportionment of constituencies. Most of them are transferred to marginal constituencies for BN, and with the voting process being compromised, to help the BN win seats. A good example is the seat of Setia Wangsa in Kuala Lumpur where without taking into account the postal vote, the Keadilan candidate would have won the seat by about 1600 votes making it a clean sweep of all seats in KL. There were also complaints of last minute movements of postal votes for example in the seat of Sik in Kedah.