MyOverseasVote has been campaigning since October 2010 for Malaysians residing outside Malaysia to be given the right to vote by post. In January 2013, the Election Commission (EC) announced that Malaysians residing overseas except in Singapore, southern Thailand (Narathiwat, Pattani, Yala, Songkhla and Satun), Kalimantan and Brunei would be allowed to apply to vote by post provided that they had been in Malaysia for at least 30 days in total during the previous five years.
MyOverseasVote and Global Bersih do not accept that the additional restrictions imposed by the EC are constitutional, fair or necessary. We are displeased that it has taken nearly one and a half years since the EC Chairman announced in August 2011 that overseas postal voting would be allowed for these regulations to be announced to the public. Nevertheless we welcome the fact that many overseas Malaysians will be able to vote by post in the upcoming 13th General Election (GE13), and we will work with the EC and Wisma Putra to improve the overseas postal voting system in the run-up to GE13.
Prior to January 2013, only full-time students, government servants and members of the armed forces and their respective spouses living overseas were allowed to register as absent voters and thus be entitled to vote by post. Absent voters are in effect permanent postal voters, and will not be able to vote in person in Malaysia until such time as they re-register as ordinary voters. If you are a registered absent voter, you will be able to vote by post even if you reside in Singapore, southern Thailand, etc.
Due to the closeness of the next general election, if you are not yet a registered absent voter, you should not register as an absent voter but should instead apply for a postal vote using Form 1B.
How to apply for a postal vote
Under the new EC scheme, overseas Malaysians who meet the qualifying criteria can apply to be postal voters for one general election. Please note that if you apply for a postal vote, you will not be able to vote in person in Malaysia.
MyOverseasVote and Global Bersih encourage Malaysians to return to vote in Malaysia if you can afford to do so, but if you cannot afford to return to vote, then we encourage you to apply for a postal vote.
In order to apply for a postal vote, you must first be a registered Malaysian voter. Any Malaysian citizen of or over the age of 21 can register at any computerised post office or Malaysian mission overseas (including embassies, consulates-general, high commissions, the Malaysian Friendship and Trade Centre in Taipei and the Malaysian Permanent Mission to the United Nations in Geneva). You only need to register once in your lifetime; however, it takes between 3-6 months after you register for a new electoral roll to be gazetted. To check whether you are already registered as a voter, please enter your IC no. at http://daftarj.spr.gov.my/. Students and government servants who have registered as absent voters will be listed with “pemilih tak hadir” as their locality, and do not need to apply using Form 1B.
For those not listed as absent voters, you need to download Form 1B from the EC website at http://www.spr.gov.my/. You must fill in the form and return it to the EC by fax, post or email. Instructions for filling out the form, together with sample completed forms and Frequently Asked Questions, are available on the EC website.
Your application for a postal vote must be received by the EC before Parliament or any State Legislative Assembly is dissolved.
Collecting your postal ballot
Overseas postal ballots are issued by the returning officer of each constituency in front of the political candidates’ agents, and are then sent by diplomatic pouch to the Malaysian mission overseas designated by the postal voter on his Form 1B. They must be collected and returned on the day notified by the mission in order for them to be returned to Malaysia by diplomatic pouch.
To collect your postal ballot, you must come in person and bring your NRIC or passport with you.
Please check with your local embassy, high commission or consulate closer to the day to find out what arrangements are in place for the collection of overseas postal ballots. If you collect your postal ballot on a different day from that which is promulgated, you will yourself be responsible for returning the postal ballot to the returning officer in Malaysia by 5 p.m. on polling day.
Exercising your postal ballot
If you apply to vote by post, you must collect your ballot paper in order to prevent it being used by another person.
Voters from the States (except Sarawak, whose State elections are usually held separately) should receive two postal ballots for Federal and State elections, while voters from the Federal Territories and Sarawak should receive a Federal postal ballot only.
To vote, you must check that the serial number on the ballot paper is the same as the number written on the Form 2 and the Envelope A, and then fill out and sign the declaration of identity (Form 2) in front of an embassy official or other Malaysian citizen.
You should then mark your ballot paper in secret, and then seal it in the Envelope A. The Form 2 and Envelope A should then be sealed in the Envelope B and returned to the embassy staff.
MyOverseasVote and Global Bersih believe that the risk that your postal ballot will be tampered with after it has been used is minimal given the safeguards already in place under the 2003 Postal Voting Regulations, and that any attempted mass tampering should be detectable by the parties’ counting agents.
We believe that the greater risk is that postal ballots will be issued improperly to phantom voters on the electoral roll or in the names of those known to be overseas who have not actually applied to vote by post, in order to dilute the votes of genuine overseas postal voters.
For this reason, we believe that the risk of fraud is greater if overseas voters do not vote (thereby allowing others to apply to vote in their name), and strongly recommend that overseas Malaysians apply for a postal vote, and collect and exercise their postal votes on the designated day, if they cannot afford to return to Malaysia to vote.
MyOverseasVote and Global Bersih call for all candidates to be given a list of postal voters in their constituencies at the end of nomination day, and for political parties to be given a nationwide list of overseas postal voters broken down by embassy, high commission or consulate.
We also call upon the EC and Wisma Putra to permit party agents from each political party to observe the collection and voting process within each Malaysian mission overseas. If the EC and Wisma Putra refuse to allow this, then we overseas Malaysians will set up observation booths outside the missions in order to monitor the overseas postal vote collection ourselves.
MyOverseasVote and Global Bersih are therefore calling for volunteers in all cities where Malaysian missions are located to be ready to observe the collection of postal ballots every day during the postal voting period. Observers will record the numbers of postal voters who turn up to collect postal ballots at every Malaysian mission, and will ask for and record postal voters’ IC numbers in order to determine the number of overseas postal votes cast in each constituency.
We call on the EC urgently to begin formal discussions with political parties and with civil society to develop and agree to implement procedures that will underpin a transparent postal voting process that meets universal standards of accountability. Any refusal by the EC to engage with stakeholders on this issue can only be viewed as unwillingness on the part of the Commission to oversee the coming election process in an impartial and non-partisan manner.
MyOverseasVote, Bersih and Global Bersih will issue further statements on minimising fraud during the issuing and counting of postal ballots.
For now, we encourage all eligible Malaysians to return Malaysia to vote if they can afford to and if not, to apply to vote by post as soon as possible.
It is important that Malaysians overseas turn out in large numbers to vote, either in person or by post, in order to reduce the impact of any phantom voting.