Global Bersih urges EC to carry out comprehensive reforms to overseas voting system

Global Bersih Secretary-General Nirmala Devi Windgaeter speaks at the press conference on Overseas Voting Reforms for GE15 in Petaling Jaya August 2, 2019. ― Picture by Choo Choy May
Global Bersih Secretary-General Nirmala Devi Windgaeter speaks at the press conference on Overseas Voting Reforms for GE15 in Petaling Jaya August 2, 2019. ― Picture by Choo Choy May

PETALING JAYA, Aug 2 — Polls reform group Global Bersih today urged the Election Commission (EC) to conduct a comprehensive overseas voting reform to allow Malaysians living abroad to vote more easily.

Based on errors that occurred throughout the 13th and 14th general election, the group polled 789 Malaysians staying in 248 cities across the globe earlier this year and compiled a comprehensive report of recommendations on how the EC could help improve the overseas voting process.

Global Bersih Secretary-General Nirmala Devi Windgaeter said there is a need to address trust deficit among Malaysians living abroad against the current voting system which reportedly hampered their effort to vote effectively.

 “It is a widely accepted fact that there is a trust deficit among Malaysians because of poor election practices. The proposal seeks to address these problems by reforming the existing format of postal voting, with minimal upheaval involved.

“Among the suggestions is that the minimum campaign period should be revised and even extended to 25 days to ensure an effective and functioning overseas postal voting process,” she said during a press conference at the Bersih 2.0 office here today.

Nirmala also urged the EC to include Malaysians residing in Singapore, Brunei, Kalimantan and Southern Thailand in the overseas postal voting system.

She said currently Malaysians working or residing there are required to return to their respective constituency to vote.

“We also suggested that the EC look into extending postal voting to Sabahan and Sarawakians working in the peninsular and vice versa,” she said, adding that they too could have difficulties to return to their respective constituency to vote.

Nirmala said with the new amendments to Article 119(1) and 119 (4) of the Federal Constitution, which saw the implementation of the automatic voter registration and legal voting age lowered to 18 respectively, the EC should look at best practices around the world on how to ensure the voting process for Malaysians living abroad to be more convenient and transparent.

Among other suggestions made in the report is to enable voters to fill out a form online when applying to register as an overseas postal voter, allow voters to register for overseas voting any time before the dissolution of Parliament, as opposed to a brief windows of times and that the EC should conduct registration and information drives abroad to ensure overseas voters are well aware of the current voting process.

The group also suggested for the EC to carry out a risk-benefit assessment on e-registration and e-voting, among others.

Nirmala said the group had met with the EC yesterday and had passed the comprehensive list and hoped that major reforms would come prior to the next general elections.

For those interested in browsing the comprehensive report, they can visit www.globalbersih.org.

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