No reason to doubt confidentiality of postal votes

04 May 2018 / 21:15 H.

PUTRAJAYA: The Election Commission's postal voting facility is a transparent process that is subject to the same scrutiny accorded to the normal balloting procedure.
As such, there is no truth to allegations by some quarters that postal voting facilitates manipulation by the ruling administration and translates into "free" votes for them.
Those claiming discrepancies in postal voting have either a shallow knowledge of the nation's electoral process or an agenda of their own, said Election Academy director Hasanul Isyraf Naim.
Postal voting is provided for under the Elections Act 1958 to allow specific groups of Malaysian voters to exercise their right to vote.
This facility is extended to, among others, members of the armed forces, police and Election Commission (EC) staff who will be on duty on voting day.
Malaysians residing abroad can also exercise their right to vote by making use of the postal voting channel.

Limited understanding of the process
In a recent interview with Bernama, Hasanul said postal voting was more complicated to conduct than normal voting even though both processes were almost similar.
"For the convenience of voters, we use different methods (to enable them to vote) but the counting process for postal votes is much more tedious due to all that checking that we have to do (to validate their votes)," he said.
The postal voting facility is extended to two categories of voters – those residing in the country and those abroad.
Domestic voters who wish to use the postal voting process will have to submit an official application to EC, which will approve their request if they meet the criteria for postal voting.
All Malaysian voters residing overseas, except those living in southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei or Kalimantan, Indonesia, are eligible for postal voting subject to conditions set by EC – they must have returned to Malaysia and stayed in the country for not less than 30 days within five years before the dissolution of Parliament or State Assembly.
For voters residing overseas, applications for postal voting were closed on April 7 when Parliament was dissolved and for domestic voters, five days before nomination day on April 28. It should be noted that applications for postal voting were opened to Malaysian voters residing abroad on Jan 23 this year.
Postal voting process
The ballot papers would be posted to the voters concerned several days after nomination day to enable the EC to prepare the ballots and send them for printing.
The election agents for the various political parties will be given a list of names of the postal voters and, similar to the normal voting process, the ballot papers would be shown to them before being posted.
Under the scrutiny of the agents concerned, the name of the voter will be struck off the electoral roll after his/her ballot paper is released for posting by EC, thus nullifying claims that postal voters can vote more than once.
The voters, meanwhile, will post the envelopes containing their marked ballot papers to the returning officers at their respective constituencies.
Counting of votes
The postal ballots will only be counted on polling day, which is May 9 in the case of the 14th general election.
During the counting process for the postal votes at the various constituencies, the counting agents for the political parties concerned will be at hand to monitor the situation.
Explained Hasanul: "We have a record of all the ballot papers that we had released (for posting). We also have a record of all the ballot papers sent back to us (by the postal voters).
"Hence, there's no way for extra ballot papers to appear suddenly."
Each postal vote consists of two small envelopes (envelope A and envelope B) which are placed inside a bigger envelope. Envelope A contains the ballot paper while envelope B contains the personal details of the voter.
During the counting process for postal votes, the personal details of the voter and the ballot paper's serial number – which is displayed on the cover of envelope A – are verified by EC in the presence of the election agents.
After verification, the unopened envelope A is placed on a tray for counting purposes.
A vote is rejected if the serial number and personal details cannot be verified.
Secrecy of vote
According to Hasanul, the postal voting process is highly confidential because the two envelopes A and B belonging to each voter are not opened simultaneously.
"After we've verified the details of the voter (in envelope B), we will seal the envelope and put it away elsewhere. If they want, the election agents can sign on its cover as a verification mark.
"It must be noted that while we are verifying the voters' personal details and serial numbers, all the envelopes marked A (containing the ballot papers) have not been opened yet and no one knows who these covers belong to. The envelopes with the ballot papers are only opened and counted in front of the counting agents," he clarified.
The process used by EC to open and count the postal ballots ensures the confidentiality of the postal voting system and leaves no room for fraudulent acts.
Hasanul said the process of tallying the postal ballots may seem tedious but that was the way it has to be done to ensure transparency in the counting process.
"That's why the counting process for postal votes is often more time-consuming and the results come later than the (results from) other voting streams," he added. — Bernama

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