EC chief says Undi 18 law may take several years for full implementation

Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun speaks to the media during a press conference at Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) in Putrajaya July 18, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Election Commission chairman Azhar Azizan Harun speaks to the media during a press conference at Putrajaya International Convention Centre (PICC) in Putrajaya July 18, 2019. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, July 18 — Enforcement of the historic Bill to lower the voting age from 21 to 18 may take several years, Azhar Azizan Harun said today.

The Election Commission (EC) chairman said there are many things that will need to be revised, not just the electoral roll.

“For example, we need data from three other government entities, including the National Registration Department, Prison Department and Health Ministry,” Azhar said during the ‘Make a Change, Let’s Do It Together Forum’ at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre here.

Apart from streamlining data from the various government agencies, the EC will also have to rebuild the auto-registration system from scratch.

“We have to call for tenders, put out the specs, among others.

“Another issue is that of addresses. I urge people to update their address when they can, as if you leave it unchanged, it can cause problems,” Azhar said.

This is especially true for those who once lived at locations that may not exist anymore, such as demolished apartments, which in turn may give the misleading impression of phantom voters.

Until such issues have been resolved, he said potential voters still have to register themselves through the conventional methods.

“Hence, our MySPR programme, where you can do it online instead of having to physically go to the post office to register. But the deciding factor is still 21 years of age,” Azhar said.

He added that his personal target is one-and-a-half years, but he would need to discuss the matter with the rest of the EC to lock down realistic timelines.

“The strength of EC’s personnel and the financial cost will be taken into account. Once the enforcement comes into effect, we are expecting up to 22.5 million new voters leading up to the 15th general election.

“This will be a bipartisan initiative so we will deal with everyone,” Azhar said.

He was also asked how much the commission would need to conduct GE15, to which he replied the amount is still being figured out.

“For us alone, it cost us RM500 million to conduct the last general election, and that was without the improvements that we were seeking such as more voting channels, air-conditioned tents, wheelchairs for disabled voters and others.

“Assuming all the improvements are there by the time GE15 rolls around, coupled with the expected addition of 22.5 million voters, the estimated cost will be far higher than GE14 even though we do not yet have the exact figures at hand,” Azhar said.

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