Is the Election Commission trying to slow down new voter registrations so that there will be less pressure to increase the number of seats in areas where Pakatan is strong in the upcoming delimitation exercise?

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 12th of June, 2014

On the 10th of June 2014, I asked the Election Commission whether it will renew the status of Assistant Registrars (AROs) of political parties so that political parties can once again do their duty of registering new voters. Almost all of the AROs for the DAP have not been renewed past 2013 which means that we cannot conduct voter registration exercises during our public events. This non-renewal of AROs does not only affect the DAP but also other political parties as well.

The reply I obtained from the Minister in charge of the Election Commission, Shahidan Kassim, said that the Election Commission has no plans to renew or appoint new AROs from political parties. The reply also said that the EC is in the process of coordinating existing voter registration exercises. I have also read reports that the EC does not want to give ARO status to political parties because some of these AROs have abused their positions and registered voters without their knowledge and gave financial incentives for unregistered voters to register.

The reply from the Minister is highly unsatisfactory as it ignores the fact that the number of newly registered voters has been steadily decreasing since Quarter 1 2013. According to Table 1 below, the number of newly registered voters was 104959 in Q1 2013, the number of voters who had changed their address was 31070 while and the number of deleted voters was 31807. The net increase in the number of voters (newly registered plus those who have changed address minus the deleted voters) was 10422 in Q1 2013. Since then, the nett number of voters have been decreasing in every quarter. For Q2 2013, the net increase was 47671 and for Q3 2013, the net increase was only 8434. By Q4 2013, the net number of voters had become negative – minus 7941 – which means that the number of voters on the electoral roll has decreased. In Q1 2014, the latest electoral roll update, the net number of voters was negative 11565.

Table 1: Nett Increase / Decrease in the number of registered voters Q1 2013 to Q1 2014

Part of the reason why the net number of voters has been decreasing is because the EC has not been active in conducting voter registration exercises. The EC has depended a lot of political parties to conduct voter registration exercises on its behalf. But now that the political parties no longer have ARO status, we cannot register voters any longer. This is an important reason why the number of newly registered voters have decreased since Q1 2013.

One cannot help think that the EC is purposely slowing down the increase in the number of new voter registrations because many new voters will be in the urban areas which supported Pakatan strongly in GE13. This means that there will be less pressure on the EC to increase the number of parliament and state seats in these areas in the upcoming delimitation exercise. I call upon the EC to restore the ARO status to political parties once again and to take strong action against individuals who have abused their ARO status to make false voter registrations rather than to punish all political parties for the offenses of a small number of irresponsible AROs. Only with the help of political parties can the EC hope to register more new voters and decrease the number of eligible but unregistered voters. Unless of course, the EC is planning to implement automatic voter registration in which case AROs would not be needed.

Appendix 1: Question and Answer on AROs by Shahidan Kassim, Minister in charge of the Election Commission (EC)