KOTA KINABALU, Aug 15 — The United Progressive Kinabalu Organisation (Upko) has proposed that the Election Commission (EC) set up “remote voting” centres for Sabahan voters in Peninsular Malaysia, Sarawak and Singapore to enable them to vote absentee during the Sabah state election.

Its deputy president Senator Datuk Donald Peter Mojuntin, in a statement today, said the practice of setting up these voting centres has been adopted globally and has now become common amidst the Covid-19 outbreak as more countries have expanded measures to mitigate transmission risks.

He said in this regard, Sabah’s political parties could arrange polling agents to be present at the identified locations for transparency. 

Mojuntin said Upko proposes that the centres in Peninsular Malaysia be placed in Kuala Lumpur (Klang Valley); Johor Bharu; Ipoh, Perak; and Penang; in Sarawak (Kuching and Miri), while for Singapore at the Malaysian High Commission. 

Upko also suggested setting up remote voting stations for rural voters based in the cities within Sabah, namely in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Kudat, Keningau and Tawau as an effort to mitigate the risks of Covid-19 spreading to their hometowns. 

“These voting centres can be opened during the early voting period over two days, to assure that officials will not be administratively burdened by this remote voting initiative. Sabahans must be kept safe and be allowed to vote safely.

“We call on the EC to make these needed administrative changes,” he said, adding that a party study of the 2019 electoral roll suggests that an estimated 18 per cent or over 200,000 of Sabah voters are currently registered outside the state.

Mojuntin said introducing postal voting at this juncture may be too difficult to administer given the timing of the election, due next month.

Earlier, the EC had said the recommendation by Global Bersih to allow absentee voting for Sabah voters living in Sarawak or Peninsular Malaysia in the coming state polls was not possible for now.

Mojuntin said if this was the case, then the EC needs to introduce steps to assure the safety and inclusion of Sabahans in casting their ballot.

“Elections in normal times strain transportation systems. During Covid-19, full buses and planes increase risks. While we can all adopt the protocols of using face masks and hand sanitisers, recent events in Kedah show that it only takes one super spreader to infect a whole community,” he added. — Bernama