Reappointment of ARO from political parties a positive step towards increasing voter registration

I refer to the recent reply to my parliamentary question on 1 July 2019. I welcome the Election Commission (EC) decision to reappoint political party representatives as Assistant Registrar Officers (AROs).

In 2011, there were 5,720 AROs appointed by the EC to assist in voter registration. However, in 2017, there were only 205 AROs left because the previous EC did not want to extend of appoint new ones, especially representatives from political parties.

As a result, many Malaysians faced difficulties to register as voters before the last general elections. They were left frustrated as they had to go to post offices or the EC offices to register during working hours. In some cases, there were insufficient registration forms.

The EC has also provided some recent data on voter registration in the reply to my question. In 2018, the total number of voters registered was 216,705 voters. For the first quarter 2019 (Jan – March) the number of voters registered was only 26,136 voters.

Such rate of voter registration is too low when compared to the number of unregistered voters. At present, there are approximately 4 million eligible but unregistered voters, which is over 20% of total eligible voters.

Additionally, parliament will be debating on the motion to lower the voting age to 18 years old this week. If passed, this is estimated to further add 3.8 million eligible voters.

Voter registration estimates

Total registered voters in GE14

14.9 mil

Total existing unregistered voters in 2019

4.0 mil

Increase in eligible voters after the lowering of voting age to 18 years old

3.8 mil

Therefore, I welcome the EC decision to restore the appointment AROs from political parties. This would make is a positive step towards making voter registration more convenient and to avoid a last-minute rush just before elections.

The EC also stated that they are in the midst of updating the corresponding Standard Operating Procedures before the new are AROs appointed. This is important to ensure that the voter registration system is not abused or manipulated by irresponsible parties, as has happened previously.

The best long-term solution would be to institute automatic voter registration. However, while we wait the eventual implementation of such system, the EC and all stakeholders must proactively assist in voter registration so that voters can exercise their democratic rights when the time comes.

Khoo Poay Tiong
Media statement by Khoo Poay Tiong in Malacca on Monday, 8th July 2019