SEREMBAN: Malaysia may be one of the leaders among nations that embraced the digital revolution but it is likely to say a resounding “no” to electronic voting or e-voting.
Election Commission chairman Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof said it was better for the country to stick to the conventional method of voters having to physically cast paper ballots at polling stations nationwide.
He said the system used in Malaysia had been time tested and there was no reason for the country to follow in the steps of nations that had introduced e-voting.
“There is no concrete evidence as yet to suggest that e-voting is a fool-proof system and cannot be manipulated.
“The current system is still the best. There is no need for us to go e-voting because it is not only unnecessary but highly risky in terms of security,” he told The Star.
Proponents of e-voting said governments would save millions on the printing ballot papers, distribution, security and logistics if technology was used in place of the cumbersome traditional voting system.
They also claimed that e-voting would result in increased voter turnout with more young people exercising their rights and also allow quicker checks for invalid or spoilt votes and for results to be known much earlier.
Among the countries that have introduced e-voting in parts or in total are the United States, Australia, India, Belgium, Brazil, Estonia, Mexico, Peru and the Philippines.
Abdul Aziz said e-voting could also be a costly affair as the EC would have to spend on computers and related equipment, retraining and also transportation costs.
“We feel that the current system is transparent enough as every ballot cast is shown to the agents of political parties present at the polling station before it is counted.
“There is also no issue of a result being known faster through e-voting as in many cases, political parties already know the outcome of a particular election an hour or so after polling is closed as they can calculate and tabulate results coming from every stream,” he said.
On suggestions that e-voting would also help check the problem of spoilt or invalid votes, Abdul Aziz said this had never been an issue in Malaysia as the total number of such votes had always been negligible.
On average, the percentage of spoilt votes in the past four general elections was 1.5% or 164,000 votes.
“Our findings have also shown that almost all spoilt or rejected votes were deliberately made.
“Many voters purposely defaced their ballots, and they had their own reasons for doing so,” he said.
Abdul Aziz said e-voting was also unnecessary as most polls in Malaysia were straight contests.
“In the Philippines, voters can take up to 30 minutes each to cast their votes, as they have to pick candidates for several positions from the governor to the local councils.
“Ours is a different system which has no pressing need for e-voting,” he said, adding that under the existing system, the secrecy of the ballot was also guaranteed as there was no way one could check who the other person voted for.
Abdul Aziz said the e-voting system could be faced with problems if there was a power disruption, for example.
“Under the conventional system, we can still continue with the voting process if there is a power outage.
“So why tinker with a straightforward system that is so simple and already working well?” he asked.
Abdul Aziz said he had proposed the use of the biometric system for those who came to vote at polling centres previously but he was criticised by some who claimed that such a move could be manipulated.
“Although the biometric system is good as we would be able to verify the identity of the IC holder with the NRD database on the spot, the proposal was still rejected,” he said, adding that the EC was then forced to introduce the use of indelible ink.
Abdul Aziz said the commission also never had any problems verifying the identification of a voter as this could be done on the spot online on polling day.
He said e-voting did not necessarily guarantee a greater participation in the voting process.
The voter turnout in the 2013 general election was slightly more than 80% while in 2008 it was 76% and 73.5% in 2004.