EC chief says prioritising voter education in 2020

EC chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun speaks to reporters in Putrajaya January 22, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
EC chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun speaks to reporters in Putrajaya January 22, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PUTRAJAYA, Jan 22 — The Election Commission (EC) will make voter education its main agenda for 2020, said chairman Datuk Azhar Azizan Harun.

He said the commission is planning to visit secondary schools and engage with Form Four students through simulated voting or elections.

Parliament voted to amend the Federal Constitution and lower the voting age to 18 last year.

“We conducted a trial run last year, which was very well received. Since then several schools have reached out to us, expressing interest in participating,” Azhar said following a courtesy visit by the Parliamentary Special Select Committee to the EC’s headquarters. 

To that end, he said the commission has prepared a module that will be part of the programme.

“Originally, Form Five students were meant to undergo the programme, but we decided to bring it down to Form Four students so they could focus on their SPM studies,” he said.

Azhar also insisted that the module will not be a tool for political indoctrination.

“We will make the module’s contents public later on, so that others can see for themselves if it has any indoctrinating elements or not,” he said, adding the EC hopes to cover all 2,400 or so secondary schools nationwide for the programme.

Separately, Azhar also spoke of electronic voting (e-voting), saying he has already seen several demonstrations of electronic voting machines from India.

“However, we still want more expert opinions on the matter, since many concerns still remain.

“This includes issues of security, and how to convince voters that their e-ballots will go to the candidate of their choice. How to assure them this will be the case is still being determined,” he said.

Other issues include the risk of being hacked, and blockchain-based voting with arguments for and against it.

Azhar met India’s EC members during a trip to Cambridge in the United Kingdom last August, where he asked for input from them.

The world’s largest democracy first introduced e-voting from 1998 to 2001, in several phases.

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