Putting all eligible voters on the electoral roll is not  a technical problem but whether there is the political will

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Wednesday): Election Commission Chairman Datuk Abdul Rashid Abdul Rahmad said yesterday that the government had in principle agreed that  Malaysians who reach 21 years of age will automatically be registered as voters, a system practised in several other countries.

This means that all Malaysians aged 21 years and above would have their names in the electoral roll and would be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote during a general election or by-election.

The Election Commission would work with the National Registration Department to update the electoral roll, with the NRD automatically providing particulars of the eligible voters to the Election Commissionís data base.

Since the seventies and eighties,  DAP had made the proposal for the automatic registration of voters when a person attains the voting age of 21 based on the records in the National Registration Department.

I had discussed the subject with Datuk Rashid when he was the Election Commission Secretary in the eighties, but the proposal had not find favour with the Election Commission at the time.

 With decades of government computerisation and the advent of the IT era, putting all eligible voters automatically on the electoral roll is not  a technical problem but whether there is the political will to devise a comprehensive and reliable electoral roll.

This is definitely more efficient than the present cumbersome  system of voter registration, with only 10 per cent registered as voters from the 1.2 million Malaysians who attain the age of 21 annually.

The question is whether the Election Commission is able to put such a new system in place within 12 months, or whether it will remain a subject of academic discussion even after the next general election in 2003 or 2004.

The automatic voter-registration system should incorporate an efficient public objection mechanism to weed out phantom voters, where the electoral roll is easily accessible to allow for public protests against inclusion of names in the electoral roll when they have no reason to be there - phantom voters who have no reason to be associated with the constituencies concerned.

The automatic registration of voters reaching the age of 21 would not, however,  address the other phenomenon of phantom voters as highlighted in the Likas election petition in Sabah, where large numbers of foreign immigrants were incorporated into the electoral rolls  based on false identity cards.

The Election Commission should explain how it plans to carry out a massive operation nation-wide to clean up the electoral roll of both types of  phantom voters.


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman