Let 18-year-olds register as voters now, says Bersih

20 Sep 2019 / 11:52 H.

PETALING JAYA: Malaysians aged 18 should be allowed to vote in elections even before automatic voter registration (AVR) is implemented, said Bersih 2.0.

The electoral watchdog, in a statement, said youths should already be permitted to register manually through existing mechanisms. They should not wait for 18 to 24 months for AVR to be implemented, it added.

Bersih said this can be done through filling up forms on the Election Commission’s (EC) website or its offices, post offices, or through assistant registration officers, as is done by those aged 21 and above.

EC chairman Azhar Azizan Harun welcomed Bersih’s suggestion but said the decision could only be made by policymakers.

Azhar noted there were several other quarters calling for youths to be allowed to vote even before laws were amended to allow for AVR.

He pointed out that the constitutional amendment to reduce the voting age to 18 and to implement AVR received bipartisan support in the Parliament, henceforth it is the prerogative of lawmakers to decide on the date of its enforcement.

“As I’ve said before, this is for policymakers to decide, and not for the EC. It’s not in my power,” he told theSun yesterday.

“The government and the opposition need to come to a consensus on the date of the enforcement.”

A bill to amend the Federal Constitution to lower the voting age and to allow AVR that was passed by the Dewan Rakyat was gazetted on Sept 10 but Azhar said EC needed up to two years to implement it.

Asked if there was a chance for AVR to be implemented earlier than the targeted time frame, Azhar said there is no problem if the necessary process goes well.

“EC would love to fully implement the AVR earlier if the process goes well. However, I’ve made it clear EC needs some upgrading on the system of AVR; to look at the manpower; to determine the new voters’ locality; and to analyse the cost needed,” he said.

On a separate note, Azhar said EC needs to carry out more campaigns to educate young voters in the country on the election process.

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