MEDIA STATEMENT (21 FEBRUARI 2018): Clean Up or Abolish Postal Voting in the Interest of a Clean and Fair GE

The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (BERSIH 2.0) condemns the the Election Commission’s (EC) call for applications for postal voting domestically. In the name of clean and fair elections, BERSIH 2.0 has on several occasions strongly criticised the problematic postal voting framework which has been hijacked to manipulate electoral outcomes.

BERSIH 2.0 has demanded the removal of postal voting on the grounds that:
1) it is open to abuse and misuse owing to the lack of electoral monitoring and transparency;
2) the lack of clarity and dubious eligibility of postal voters;
3) the lack of security measures for the storage and transportation of the ballot boxes which    renders it vulnerable to vote tampering;
4) lack of access of polling and counting agents (PACA);
5) lack of notice to the candidates; and
6) the lack of enforcement in ensuring that voters do not appear as both postal and advance voters.

The EC has allowed 12 categories of civil servants to vote as a postal voters with the condition that their employers can verify that they will be on duty on polling day. Nine out of the 12 categories were quietly gazetted in October and December last year.

Categories Forms Vetted by Closing Date
1.      Election Commission Personnel
2.      Police and Military
3.      Media Personnel
Form 1A Any party who has the power to approve this application and knows that the applicant will be on duty during advance voting day and polling day.
Nomination Day
4.      Prisons Department
5.      Fire and Rescue Department
6.      Maritime Enforcement Department
7.      Government health workers working in government health institutions
8.      Royal Malaysian Police Volunteer Reserve
9.      Malaysian Civil Defence
10.   Immigration Department
11.   National Disaster Management Agency
12.  National Registration Department
Form 1C Any party who has the power to approve this application and knows that the applicant will be on duty during polling day. 5 days before Nomination Day

Expanding categories of postal voters to a postal voting process that is flawed, is a gross violation of principles of the right to vote, vote security, electoral integrity and the democratic process. Taking this instance as an example, there are no clear guidelines requiring 1) proof that the voter is on duty and will be unable to vote in person, 2) verification of the identity of the ‘employer’ and 3) parties who specifically qualify as an ‘employer’.
More worrisome is the fact that applications for domestic postal voting has been opened without determining the date of the elections – how can the civil servants apply for postal voting without knowing for sure that they will be on duty on polling day?
While the EC makes grand claims about ensuring that civil servants should have access to the right to vote, little is done to ensure the integrity of the election process. One way that the EC can easily rectify this is by putting in place clear and precise regulations to address opaque and insufficient laws on postal voting and advance voting.
Without the proper procedures and processes in place to assure the voter’s right to choose freely, voter secrecy and the integrity of the election process, the EC should not have to resort to postal voting, especially when there are other methods at their disposal. This criticism is especially valid given that the 2018 budget allotted RM370 million[i] to the EC to ensure a smooth electoral process. Instead of postal voting, the EC now has the resources to open up temporary polling stations under the standard voting processes.
These concerns are justified given that Barisan National (BN) would have lost 30 of its current parliamentary seats[ii] if not for the turnaround caused by advance and postal votes in the 13th General Elections – and the very fact that the aforementioned government departments possess large populations which may tilt elections in favour of the current government. Military personnel – one of the postal voting categories – is estimated to have a force 420,000 strong, of which more than 300,000 are reserve personnel[iii]. As such, the reserve personnel need not be on duty on polling day and should not be included in the category of postal voters.
BERSIH 2.0 has proposed that postal voting be abolished and replaced with advance voting under the condition that it is held a day before polling day and that the votes are counted on site at the end of the day. BERSIH 2.0’s proposal is part of our demands for electoral reform which we submitted to the EC in April last year, in effort to prevent and minimise electoral fraud. The 2018 budget allows for postal voting to be abolished and replaced with advance voting. There is no excuse for the EC to extend postal voting to such large and unjustifiable categories.
BERSIH 2.0 urges the EC to immediately halt the registration of postal voters and review the postal voting application process to ensure that these voters are genuine; and in the pursuit of a clean and fair 14th General Elections.
Issued by:
BERSIH 2.0 Steering Committee