EC plays safe with voter registration

S Pathmawathy & Kuek Ser Kuang Keng (Malaysiakini)
SPECIAL REPORT While political parties are seeking to loosen some procedures on voter registration, the Election Commission (EC) is determined to tighten loopholes to prevent discrepancies in the electoral rolls.
Addressing complaints, EC chief Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof (right) said the rules on accrediting assistant registration officers (AROs) are an effort to clean up the system, rather than an attempt to frustrate political parties and NGOs.
The EC will not take chances, he insisted, despite claims that the commission has an “agenda” in creating delays through bureaucracy.
“We want political parties to assist us. Right now Umno, DAP and PAS are very active in registering voters… and we have agreed to establish two assistant registrars for every state seat (in place of one ARO for each parliamentary seat). This is being finalised,” he said.
Abdul Aziz said EC approval of accreditation of new AROs has taken longer than usual because the commission is trying to sort out systemic glitches.
“It is delegation of power. Therefore we have to be careful who we hand responsibility to – if their appointment is (later) questioned, (the registrations they have supervised) will not be valid.”
With politicians intensifying scrutiny of the election process, the EC has come under pressure to ensure that the electoral rolls are error free.
“Sikit sikit masalah (even for small matters) they will want to take (legal) action, so it is best that we resolve everything before the next general election,” he said.
“We have a legal adviser looking into the regulations and we have submitted a proposal to the government to consider (these). Everything will be put in order soon.”
Automatic registration?
There are currently 3,500 accredited AROs nationwide and 4.39 million eligible but unregistered voters.
While Abdul Aziz agreed that automatic voter registration could be a solution, he pointed out that this would require the relevant laws to be amended.
However, the government had earlier rejected the proposal, saying that the people cannot be forced to vote.
Jasmine Ng of Extraordinary People Impacting Community, a NGO that assists in voter registration, suggested that the EC allows NGO members to be accredited as AROs.
“It is the people’s right, duty and responsibility to vote, and we too have a responsibility to help our fellow citizens to register,” she argued.
Selayang municipal councillor Lee Khai Loon, who is in charge of PKR’s on-going voter registration exercise in Selangor, reiterated the need for automatic registration.
“The National Registration Department has the particulars of all citizens, as they are required to acquire a MyKad at the age of 12. So, it has an updated database which is accessible to the EC,” he said.
In January last year, the EC had proposed to set up an online voter registration platform to encourage young adults to sign up as voters. However, the plan has come to a standstill.