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Automatic voter registration: Electoral Commission should stop making excuses

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The Electoral Commission has yet again proved its incompetence by giving non-answers to block the implementation of automatic voter registration, says Bersih 2.0.

Automatic voter registration means that a Malaysian citizen will be automatically registered as a voter when they reach the age of 21. This hastens the registration process and removes unnecessary barriers to exercising one’s basic democratic right to vote.

Voter registration will be electronically linked to the National Registration Department (NRD), which will eliminate the lack of addresses and duplicate entries and remove deceased persons and dubious entries from the electoral roll. Automatic voter registration is a cleaning process to correct a flawed electoral roll and incompetence.

Electoral Commission chairman Mohd Hashim Abdullah can only provide a flimsy excuse that “many issues” will arise if automatic voter registration is put into effect, failing to elaborate further. What’s more, he fears that the electoral body will be blamed for problems arising from changing the system.

This is a truly an embarrassing excuse as tackling such matters is something that the commission has to handle as it is part of what they are tasked to do. If the commission is held back by a fear of repercussions, then nothing will change.

If Mohd Hashim wants to be taken seriously, then he should explain to the public the difficulties of an automatic voter registration process instead of hiding behind ambiguous answers to shun its duty and responsibilities.

Mohd Hashim’s statement is the latest in a slew of laughable excuses from the commission to not implement automatic voter registration which include a lower voter turnout, a less updated system adversely affecting the voter objection process and the issue of voters not living at their addresses as stated in their identity card.

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The current system, which Mohd Hashim deems efficient enough, still sees almost four million unregistered eligible voters. The Electoral Commission’s appalling effort in voter registration leaves much room for improvement. The questions remains: How many people does the commission register per year? What are they doing to register these four million people?

Their lack of action has left NGOs like Bersih 2.0 and political parties to fill the gap by creating the hype and setting up voter registration booths, all while battling the commission’s uncooperative attitude.

The Electoral Commission’s schizophrenic attitude when it comes to voter registration, combined with its bulldozing through of the current unconstitutional redelineation exercise, can only be read either as complete incompetence or a deliberate denial of voters’ rights.

Instead of paying lip service and trying to maintain a façade of free and fair elections, the commission had better get its act together if it wants to inspire some confidence among the public.

Bersih 2.0 steering committee members

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