Media Statement on Overseas Voting after SPR Meeting with Political Parties on the 7th of March, 2013
In a briefing to political parties on the 7th of March, 2013, the Chairman of the Election Commission (EC), Tan Sri Abdul Aziz, and the Deputy Chairman, Datuk Wan Ahmad, announced a few matters pertaining to overseas postal voting. We welcome these announcements, especially the decision by the Election Commission to allow political parties to appoint election agents and observers not only at the Malaysian embassies, high commissions and consulates (embassies, hereafter) around the world but also when these overseas postal ballots are issued in Putrajaya before they are sent overseas and when they are collected in Putrajaya after they are sent back.
The Election Commission also announced that they will be sending out a detailed guidebook (buku panduan) to all the embassies to set out exactly the procedures and processes associated with overseas postal voting so that these can be implemented uniformly throughout the Malaysian embassies worldwide. The Election Commission also promised that they would issue detailed guidelines for voters as well as for political parties on the process and procedures relating to overseas postal voting which are relevant to both of these groups.
We strongly urge the Election Commission to provide the following details in these guidelines:
1. Steps to notify those who have applied to be overseas postal voters whether their application has been approved or not. The EC stated that only those whose application has been rejected (mostly because they are not yet registered voters) will be informed immediately. For the rest, the EC stated that only the Returning Officer in the respective constituencies (where these overseas voters are registered) can approve the application to be an overseas postal ballot. The EC promised to name these Returning Officers early, before the dissolution of parliament, so that these applications can be processed as soon as possible and the duly voters informed.
2. Instructions to political parties on the process of appointing and approving election agents at the embassies and also to monitor the issuing and collection of overseas postal voters in Putrajaya. To reiterate, the EC announced today that election agents representing political parties at the embassies can be appointed to monitor the casting of votes in the embassies. Furthermore, the EC announced today that representatives of political parties will be allowed to monitor the issuance of overseas postal ballots in Putrajaya which would include the issuance of the equivalent of a Borang 13 which confirms the number of ballots issued and sent to the various embassies overseas.
3. Confirmation of when the overseas postal ballots will be issued and sent and when the overseas voters can collect and cast their ballots at the embassies. We urge the EC to consider extending the opening hours of the embassies on the designated polling day for the embassies in order to allow voters who have to travel long distances in certain countries such as the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom to cast their votes at the embassies.
4. Clarification to the overseas postal voters that they can choose to send their ballots, which come together with self-addressed envelopes to the Returning Officer in their constituency, through private channels including express mail and even arranging for the ballot to be personally delivered to the Returning Officer by 5pm on polling day. Allowing this option would mean that those voters who fear that their ballot may be compromised can send their ballot directly to the Returning Officer rather than having the ballot go through the Diplomatic Dispatch from the various embassies.
5. Clarification that for those overseas postal voters who cannot collect their ballots at the embassies, that these ballots will be mailed to them directly instead.
6. Confirmation that the absent voters (Pengundi Tidak Hadir) will also have the option of collecting and casting their ballot at the embassies or have the ballots sent directly to them.
7. Clarification that overseas observers from appointed NGOs can also be appointed. The EC indicated that this was the case in response to one of my questions during the Q&A session. We hope that this can be confirmed and that the proper guidelines can be issued as to who are the NGOs which are allowed to appoint overseas observers and how these overseas observers are to be appointed.
Providing the right for Malaysians overseas to cast a vote is long overdue. We hope that the EC will do what is necessary so that all Malaysians overseas who are already registered voter can be given the proper information in a timely fashion and that proper procedures can be put in place so that the secrecy of the overseas ballots can be guaranteed.
Anthony Loke Siew Fook, DAP National Organizing Secretary
Dr. Ong Kian Ming, DAP Election Strategist