The Election Commission should not allow spurious objections to the addition of voters to the electoral roll

Media Statement by Dr. Ong Kian Ming, MP for Serdang, on the 18th of September 2015

The Election Commission should not allow spurious objections to the addition of voters to the electoral roll

In the past month, many DAP representatives have received complaints that newly registered voters were being objected to being included in the electoral roll by unknown individuals. These voters were being asked to attend a public hearing that was being held at the Selangor Election Commission at Wisma PKNS in Shah Alam. I attended such a public hearing on the 10th of September and what I found was utterly unacceptable.

On this day, the voters who were being objected to were registered in the N38 Paya Jaras and the N55 Dengkil state seats, both of which were contested by UMNO in the 2013 General Election. All of the 20 voters I spoke to (newly registered as well as registered voters who requested for a change in address) had been living in the address on their IC for at least 3 years, some of them more than 10 years. The reason given by the objectors (or “pembantah”) was that the voter cannot be traced (“Pemilih Tidak Dapat DiKesan”) (See Appendix 1 for a sample). No additional proof was given to show that the objector had indeed done his or her homework in order to trace the voter that was being objected to. The fact that these objections were spurious was clear when all of the voters whom I spoke to on the 10th of September had the objections against them rejected i.e. all of them were approved to be included in the electoral roll.

While the right to object to the inclusion of a voter on the supplementary electoral roll into the primary electoral is provided under Section 15 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002, these regulations also make it clear that the Registrar – usually a member of the Election Commission – has the right to ask the objector for more information regarding the nature of the objection.

Article 15 (5) states: “Upon receipt of an objection under this regulation, the Registra may, if he is of the opinion that the particulars given in the objection are insufficient, request for further information from the objector who shall furnish the information within seven days from the date he receives such request.”

The Election Commission must not allow objections to take place when so little proof has been furnished on the part of the objector. Instead of wasting the time of the newly registered voter, the EC should ask for more proof from the objector before allowing the objection to get to the public inquiry stage.

I was also surprised to see that the Election Commission did not order the objector to pay the objectee the maximum amount of two hundred ringgit as compensation for any loss of time or inconvenience caused under Article 18 of the regulations. Many of these voters took time off work and had to travel to Shah Alam for the public inquiry. One voter even had to drive back from Kuantan, where he is working in a public hospital, in order to prove that he is a legitimate voter in the N55 Dengkil constituency. Voters coming from places such as Sabak Bernam and Hulu Selangor, which are far from the EC’s office in Shah Alam, may not be able to cover their expenses and time lost even with the maximum RM200 compensation. Instead, the EC asked the objector to pay RM100 for each failed objection. (See Appendix 2 below)

In addition, the EC also failed to ask the objector to pay the objectee on the spot. Rather, the objectees were asked to fill in their details on a piece of paper by a person acting on behalf of the objector. When I asked the EC officer in charge why the objector could not pay the objectee on the spot, he replied that the EC had no power to compel the objector to do so. This is also grossly unfair to the objectee since there is no guarantee that he or she will be paid even the RM100 for the inconvenience and time lost off work.

What the EC needs to do is to amend the maximum fine to a higher amount, in order to dissuade individuals and groups from making spurious objections to otherwise legitimate voters in their respective areas and that this compensation must be paid on the spot if the objector is not able to find any concrete reasons to object to the inclusion of these voters to be included in the primary electoral roll.

It is hard to resist from speculating that this is part of a desperate attempt by UMNO to win back some of its state seats by objecting to voters whom they feel are much more likely to vote for the non-BN parties. When I was at the Selangor EC’s office during the public hearing, I met two UMNO representatives – one from the Paya Jaras state seat and the other from the Dengkil state seat.

The Election Commission must carry on its own due diligence and put its foot down so that these spurious objections will not take place in the future. They can do this by asking for a much higher burden of proof from the objector as to the basis of the objections, and also by increasing the maximum amount of compensation to be paid on the spot if the objector’s reasons are found to be without basis.

Dr. Ong Kian Ming
Member of Parliament for Serdang

Appendix 1: Objection to Leong Yung Hong using the reason “Pemilih Tidak Boleh DiKesan”

Appendix 2: Decision by the EC to ask the objector to pay the objectee RM100 only