In every election campaign the polling and counting agents (PACAs) play an understated but crucial role. PACAs are the people tasked to ensure the elections function fairly. How, one may asked? The following are some of the key points PACAs do and the challenges they face.
Why Are They Important
The presence of a PACA in the polling station assures the voter that his vote will be confidential and accounted for. It also influences the Election Commission (EC) staffs and workers because with an opposition PACA present, they will be more likely to carry out their duties impartially and honestly.
According to Mary Josephine, a PACA trainer for DAP, “the PACA’s presence reminds the EC staffs that their activities are being monitored. Hence, they will be more cautious.”
Need for PACA
The EC has specified guidelines and rules on the conduct of the polling and counting of votes. However, discrepancy often arises between the stated regulations and what is practised. Some of the Election or Returning Officers (RO), most of whom are civil servants from other government departments, may not have been trained adequately in conducting the vote polling and counting process properly.
To spot these discrepancies and raise the objections where necessary, the PACAs need to be trained and informed of what is happening. Hence the need for a PACA to spot vote polling and counting process irregularities. This is one of the PACA’s main focus.
A polling agent is tasked to monitor and observe that the polling process is done according to the EC guidelines. He has to be assured that the details of the voter who comes to vote agrees with the details in the identification cards (IC) presented.
He also has to ensure that the voter is not disturbed or prompted from anyone in and outside the room, and the voting process is done smoothly and confidentially. In addition, there are some procedures and areas that the polling agent needs to look out for.
As a result of the electoral reforms mooted by the Parliamentary Select Committee (PSC) on electoral reform, indelible ink will be used in the next GE for the first time. Every voter has a right to vote, and vote only once. The polling agent need to be observant if there are ink marks on the voter’s fingers or signs that the voter has attempted to rub it off with distillates.
Another key area where the polling agent can assist is to detect phantom or irregular voters. There have been recorded instances where the person who shows up to vote does not correspond with the age or race stated in the ICs. With many allegations that certain parties are using foreigners to vote in the coming GE, the polling agent is the last line of detection in the attempt to weed out phantom voting.
In addition, the polling agent needs to be alert to what is going on in and around the polling centre and ensure that there is no suspicious movement around the area. If there is anything suspicious happening, he is immediately to inform his election agent or party and request for the polling process to be stopped.
Monitoring Vote Counting
As for the counting agent, it is a continuation of the polling process that took place during the day. He is there to observe that the vote counting process is done according to the procedures, impartially and with no interference from outside parties.
Similarly, he also has to observe and ensure that there are no suspicious activities happening around the counting centre that would affect the fair counting of the votes. If it happens, he is immediately to inform his election agent and request for the counting process to be stopped. In case any votes become disputable, he should strive to ensure his party gets the vote.
Call for PACA
The need for adequate number of PACAs for any aspiring candidate cannot be overstated. Often times PACAs are the ones that make a difference on election contests won or lost. Many past prominent DAP and opposition candidates were defeated for the lack of PACAs in monitoring the polling and vote counting process.
For anyone that desires to be a part of this struggle for change, be a PACA today. Contact your nearest Pakatan party’s branch or PACA training organisations and sign up to be one.