Bersih: Voter registration challenges open to abuse


Source: The Malay Mail Online

Bersih 2.0’s chairman Maria Chin Abdullah— Picture by Saw Siow Feng, taken from Malay Mail Online.

Bersih 2.0’s chairman Maria Chin Abdullah— Picture by Saw Siow Feng, taken from Malay Mail Online.

KUALA LUMPUR, March 11 — The Election Commission’s (EC) system to object against dubious registrants can be exploited to disenfranchise new voters, said a polls watchdog group following claims that specific communities were currently being targeted.

Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah pointed out the system was vulnerable to abuse as there is currently no threshold to lodge an objection against new voters beyond plain “suspicion”.

“You just stand in front of the judge and he will ask why are you objecting, and then you say ‘Oh, I think this person is not staying at that address,’” Maria explained, adding no other information beyond that was required.

A complainant only has to pay RM10 to lodge each objection and may file up to 20 such complaints under the Elections (Registration Of Electors) Regulations 2002. None of the complaints need to be accompanied by any form of evidence.

Although the process to strike out unfounded objections is straightforward, it still requires the person flagged as a dubious registrant to take the time and attend the proceedings. Those who do not are struck from the rolls and may not take part in elections until they are restored.

Maria said the authorities should at least perform some rudimentary vetting of the objection filings to ensure those that do reach the Elections Court are of some substance.

“There should be more safeguards to scrutinise this. The regulations need to be tightened,” she told Malay Mail Online.

Although the system also mandates that failed complainants must compensate the subject of their objections by RM100 each, Maria said that this was not automatically enforced.

While a single voter lodging the maximum 20 complaints could be liable for up to RM2,000 if all of these fail, they may not end up paying all or even any of the sum.

Instead, the Elections Court issues a letter acknowledging that the subject of an unsuccessful objection is owed RM100 by the objector, which the person is then expected to use to seek the compensation from his accuser.

“That’s all they do,” Maria said. “You have to chase for the payment yourself.”

In some cases, Maria said the objectors do not even attend the hearings, making it even more unlikely for the subject of their complaint to get the due compensation.

She then suggested that the RM100 be held in escrow and be paid out either as a refund or compensation depending on the outcome of the challenge, to discourage frivolous objections.

Maria said Bersih was informed by the EC that it receives approximately 100 objections a day.

Commenting on claims that Chinese registrants were being specifically targeted with the objections, Maria said the EC has a duty to disprove such allegations if these were untrue.

Maintaining that it was premature to conclude that there was any concerted effort to disenfranchise certain sections of the electorate, Maria said failure to dispel the rumours would further fuel such perceptions.

“They have to be responsible and answer how come there are so many objections,” she said.

Malay Mail Online reported on March 7 that several ethnic Chinese voters complained that they encountered objections against their registrations ahead of the next general election.

Elaine Lee, who posted a photo of several Chinese Malaysians flocking the EC office in Shah Alam on her Facebook page, said she had accompanied her 26-year-old boyfriend to the EC’s office after he received a letter that said his application to be a voter had been rejected.

Although the photograph showed a mix of Malay and Chinese, Lee told Malay Mail Online that the former group were primarily objectors while the latter, the subjects of the objections.

Since then, other similar claims have surfaced on social media.