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Why 3.7m potential voters just don’t bother
Published on: Sunday, August 13, 2017

By Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
ALL responsible Malaysians would welcome Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s clear call to register to vote for the next general election (GE14).

Hopefully, those targeted, especially the youths, would feel encouraged and hasten to register before it’s too late.

The PM says it only takes five minutes to register to vote at post offices and the Election Commission (EC) offices at federal and state levels.

Why then are 3,772,149 Malaysians still not registered?

Let’s try to answer this critical question.

1. Many Malaysians feel it’s a hassle to register to vote. There are not as many registration offices as necessary to make it more convenient for the registrant. And there are too few voter register officers!

The number has been reduced considerably, thus slowing down the registration process.

2. Registration officers are not as warm and encouraging as they should be and applicants are thus discouraged.

Warmth and good service is often lacking.

3. Many registered voters find that their addresses have been changed arbitrarily.

When they check at the post office or EC office, they are given unclear answers or a run-around.

They therefore lose interest in the voter registration process.

As Minister in the Prime Minister’s department Datuk Seri Azalina Othman Said admitted in Parliament on July 31, there were 1,454 voter registration objections in just three months between January and March this year.

Many objections are thought to be frivolous and politically motivated.

Can you then imagine the hassle the potential voters have to face? This kind of news travels fast on social media and puts off good citizens from registering to vote.

4. Many youths feel disenchanted with voter delineation and misappropriation in the voting process.

Thus, they often protest against the electoral system by not registering.

5. Unfortunately, many Malaysians also think that with money politics, the one-person-one-vote system does not really work if votes can be bought.

Some also believe their vote does not really make a difference to the outcome! These people are wrong and need to be made aware of the importance of every vote.

But is the EC doing enough to educate our potential voters? From what I hear, I have serious doubts.

In fact, I wonder if the EC officers fully briefed the PM about the problems facing the 3.7 million unregistered voters.

If they did, the PM could provide more funds for the EC to carry out its duty to register more voters.

Unless the EC does more positive and promotional work, the public may get the impression that it is not keen to get more Malaysians to register and to vote! So how can the PM’s call to register to vote be properly implemented?

1. Introduce automatic voter registration: All those above the age of 21 should be registered naturally and automatically.

2. Implement compulsory voting: The PM has stated publicly that “voting is the responsibility of every Malaysian who has the right to determine his future”.

These proposals for electoral changes would surely enhance the standards of the election process and its efficiency. These easy electoral changes would also raise the turnout for GE14, which is expected to be held anytime from October 2017 to July next year, from the 84.84pc or 11.2 million voters in GE13 to a much higher percentage.

We need to also express our appreciation to Opposition MP Kasthuriraani Patto for raising this important issue at this Parliament session. This has highlighted the serious problems of poor voter registration.

The PM has openly urged the 3.7 million eligible Malaysians to register to vote. But his call will come to nought unless it is properly followed through and effectively implemented.

We therefore hope that his clear call is fully and faithfully supported by the Election Commission and that the whole election and voter registration process is properly streamlined and made more efficient and voter-friendly.

This is essential for the public to “feel good” about the imminent elections.

Undilah kita semua!

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam Chairman Asli Center of Public Policy Studies

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