Plot to reduce urban voter registration?

by Ong Kian Ming

Is the Election Commission trying to reduce voter registration in the urban areas by not renewing the status of assistant registrars from the political parties?

The DAP was informed by the Election Commission (EC), in a letter dated the 13th of November, that there would be no re-appointment of existing assistant registrars (AROs) or the appointment of new assistant registrars once their term expires. In the same letter, the EC asked DAP to encourage non-registered voters to register themselves as voters at the EC offices and also in the major post offices around the country.

This decision means that at the end of 2013, the DAP will have no more AROs in almost all states to assist in the process of voter registration. We understand that this decision affects all political parties and not just the DAP.

The reason given for this non-renewal by the EC is to enable them to coordinate and streamline the existing voter registration rules and processes. This is not an acceptable explanation since it would effectively stop political parties such as the DAP from carrying out voter registration activities and exercises at many of our events. In fact, past figures released by the EC shows that Pakatan Rakyat parties have a much better record at registering new voters compared to the BN.

For example, from January to June 2010, Pakatan parties registered 107,050 new voters while BN only registered 59,351 new voters in Peninsular Malaysia.[1]

The urban areas will be most affected by the EC’s decision since this is where a majority of the non-registered voters live. These are also the areas with the largest number of Pakatan supporters. 13 out of the 15 parliament seats with more than 100,000 voters are Pakatan seats in urban areas.

One cannot help but to speculate whether the EC’s decision is influenced by the upcoming delineation exercise. If the number of urban voters were to increase post GE13, especially in Pakatan areas with the help of Pakatan AROs registering new voters, there will be more pressure on the EC to increase the number of seats in these areas. By not renewing the status of these AROs, voter registration activities in these areas will be decreased, which takes some pressure off from the EC to increase the number of seats in these areas.

If the EC wants to stop irresponsible AROs to registering voters improperly e.g. without their knowledge or by bribing them to change their IC address, then it should ask the Attorney General (AG) to prosecute these AROs under Section 3(1)(a) of the Election Offences Act rather than to stop all AROs from their carrying out their legitimate activities.

Currently, the estimated number of unregistered voters is between 3.5 million to 4 million with the largest number in the state of Selangor – approximately 600,000 as of June 2012.[2] The EC’s actions will only lead to this number increasing, not decreasing. We call upon the EC to restore the status of the current AROs of the political parties and to allow political parties to appoint new AROs in order to reduce the number of unregistered voters in the country.

* Note: DAP has more than 100 AROs around the country whose status will not be renewed by the EC.

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