Report: EC, election reforms panel see speed bumps to automatic sign-ups, lower voting age

An Election Commission officer makes final preparations for the by-election at a polling centre in Sekolah Kebangsaan Nyatoh in Rantau April 12, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
An Election Commission officer makes final preparations for the by-election at a polling centre in Sekolah Kebangsaan Nyatoh in Rantau April 12, 2019. — Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

KUALA LUMPUR, July 10 — The Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) and the Election Commission (EC) said they can implement the proposal to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 and register voters automatically but stressed that there are technical issues that must first be overcome.

Among this is the current state of the electoral roll, which ERC chairman Tan Sri Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahman said must be cleaned up to remove dubious and outdated entries before the proposed automatic registration of eligible voters should be introduced.

“If we do not implement a proper system, there would be havoc (on the electoral roll) and certain constituencies may have a lot of voters and others may have too small a number,” he was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper today.

Abdul Rashid pointed out that there must also be a massive reform at the National Registration Department (NRD) for easy address changes before the automatic registration is implemented, in order for the EC to obtain the correct constituency data.

“We can do it (implement automatic registration) in two years and we have no choice but to do it before the next GE,” Ab Rashid said further in the report.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is expected to table the Bills for the three constitutional amendments for the second reading on July 16 before they are put to vote before Parliament.

The government has now enlisted the Malaysian Administrative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) to assist in the exercise by reviewing the information and communications technology (ICT) requirements.

Separately, EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun said much work remained for the commission once the amendments to lower the age of voters to 18 and automatic registration are voted through by Parliament.

He said in order for the automatic registration to be effective, comprehensive ICT systems must be in place to weed out non-current addresses of voters.

Azhar said there are three main ministries and agencies which the EC deals with to verify qualification of voters: The NRD, the Health Ministry and the Prison Department, as well as the courts.

He said NRD’s role will be to determine the citizenship and age of the voter; the Health Ministry to determine if a voter is of sound mind; and the Prison Department to ensure that the person registered is not serving a jail sentence of more than 12 months or facing a death sentence.

“There are addresses which do not exist anymore, such as the defunct Pekeliling Flats. Many Malaysians do not update their address of residence on their MyKad despite there being a law stating that one must update the address of residence,” Azhar was quoted as saying.

Regulation 15 of the National Registration Regulations 1990 (Amendment 2001) states that the holder of an identity card who will be changing the current place of residence to another place of residence for a period of 90 days or more must change the address on the identity card.

Azhar pointed out that If this is not done, the system will register everyone using the existing addresses on MyKad.