How EC got away with voters transfer

S Pathmawathy & Kuek Ser Kuang Keng (Malaysiakini)
SPECIAL REPORT Imagine arriving at a polling station to cast your ballot and being told that your name has been transferred to a different centre – or even out of the constituency altogether.
This happened during the recent Hulu Selangor and Sibu by-elections, catching voters by surprise.
In Hulu Selangor, 228 voters were transferred without their knowledge to the adjacent parliamentary constituency of Selayang. In Sibu, 414 voters’ names were moved to the Lanang parliamentary seat.
These are not rare cases, claimed DAP national publicity secretary Tony Pua (left), who cited similar incidents in his parliamentary constituency of Petaling Jaya Utara in Selangor, as well as in the seats of Serdang, Pandan and Puchong.
For example, one “locality” – Section 17 Utara – under the Petaling Jaya Selatan parliamentary constituency, was transferred to Petaling Jaya Utara constituency involving thousands of voters.
PKR election director Fuziah Salleh, who said the party had received complaints, stressed that the law prohibits such transfers without the knowledge and consent of the affected voters.
“It is the right of voters to be part of the constituency in which they live, she noted. As the address has not changed, there is a need to notify people whose names have been moved to a different polling station,” she said.
However, Pua pointed out that there is a loophole in the law in that the Election Commission (EC) is allowed to correct its errors without informing the voters – although interpretation of a ‘mistake’ would depend on the gazetted constituency map.
If constituency boundaries are clear, the EC cannot claim to have made a mistake. If the map is not clear, then the EC interpretation would apply, he explained.
EC chairperson Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof, when contacted, said errors are rectified when spotted.
“Sometimes during registration, the EC officers make a mistake. For example, a voter lives in Gombak but (is registered to vote) in Hulu Selangor. This is wrong, so we change it to the right constituency,” he said.
“This process is in place to prepare for the (next) general election, not for by-elections (as these can’t be predicted). We want to inform people of the changes, but this has not been done yet. But we inform all the political parties prior to (any) by-election.”
‘Procedure not followed’
Abdul Aziz said the EC has its own problems with those who constantly ‘make noise’ but who do not comply with registration procedures.
“By law, when you move to a different location you must (update) your address (at) the National Registration Department (NRD) within three months, as well as with the EC.
“But while people change their address with the NRD, they refuse to the same with the EC.”
When politicians find out during elections that an electoral roll has more voters than the names in the NRD’s list, they claim the existence of ‘phantom voters’, said Abdul Aziz.
In an immediate response, Fuziah rejected the explanation, saying that the EC should not use its “mistakes” to shirk responsibility.
“They are incompetent and inefficient… the EC needs to be more responsible and more accountable,” she said.
Going by the experience in Hulu Selangor, Fuziah said the EC would not have bothered about the transfer of voters if PKR had not brought up the matter.
“This only involved 228 voters. The EC had enough time to inform them during the campaign period,” she added.
She acknowledged that, generally. the EC informs political parties of such transfers.
In the case of Hulu Selangor, she was uncertain if PKR personnel were informed but insisted that the transfers may have been done against the will of voters.