KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 ― Undi Sarawak has filed a judicial review against the government, Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and the Election Commission (EC) for delaying the lowering of voting age to 18 at the Kuching High Court today.
The voting advocacy group for Sarawak youths claimed the delay in implementing the lowering of the voting age from 21 to 18 is irrational, illegal, disproportionate and amounts to voter suppression.
Naming five applicants in the suit, Undi Sarawak said it is seeking to quash the government's decision to delay lowering the voting age and seek to compel the named parties to bring into effect Section 3(a) of the Constitutional (Amendment) Act 2019 on or before July 2021.
“Undi Sarawak holds firm to our belief that youth between the ages of 18 to 20 are owed their constitutional right to vote. This is made more pertinent for approximately 125,000 to 135,000 Sarawakians aged 18 to 20, as Sarawak State Elections ought to be held by August 7 2021 once the ongoing Emergency period ends in early August.
“Hence, the Undi18 bill must be implemented by July 2021 to ensure these young Sarawakians can exercise their rights as first-time voters during the upcoming state elections.
“Therefore, five Sarawakian youths from the ages of 18 to 20 years old (‘the applicants’), representing the Undi Sarawak movement, have filed a judicial review against the government of Malaysia,” the group said in a statement.
Parliament had passed the Constitution (Amendment) Act 2019 in July 2019 to reduce the voting age eligibility from 21 to 18 years by amending Article 119(1)(a) of the Federal Constitution after it received broad bipartisan support from both sides of the House of Representatives.
It was gazetted on September 10, 2019. Several EC officials estimated that the Act, which would have approximately added up to 1.2 million new voters once the changes come into effect according to some political analysts’ estimates, could be implemented by mid-year.
But in a statement that surprised many, Election Commission chairman Datuk Abdullah Ghani Salleh said on March 25 that implementing the lowering of the minimum voting age to 18 and automatic voter registration could only be accomplished after September 1, 2022.
He cited constraints and difficulties brought about by the movement control order that began in March 2020.
On April 29, minister in the Prime Minister’s Department handling the law and Parliament portfolio Datuk Seri Takiyuddin Hassan said the EC eeds to resolve some legal and technical issues including updating its software systems before it can lower the voting age from 21 to 18.