Can overseas students register in time for to vote for this election? The answer may be a disappointing “no”. But the loss may be lesser than you think because there are many more important things you can do.
Marie Tan Kiak Li, a future political scientist at LSE, wrote an article on malaysiavotes.com on how the overseas students may do this. I have received emails dissimenating messages from my Essex junior Marcus.
I must first declare that I am not familiar with postal voting – as I did not have the chance to observe how it was done in 2004 – and I never voted on postal ballot (voted physically in Malaysia in 2004). My view below is solely based on my understanding of the by-laws and information obtained elsewhere in the past. Those of you who have voted on postal voting especially at Malaysian missions overseas please share your experience so we may all learn from you.
1. Who are postal voters?
There are two types of postal voters:
(I) Absent voters, defined under Regulation 2 of the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2o02 as
a citizen who has attained the age of twenty-one years on the qualifying date and is-
(a) a serving member of any regular naval, military or air force of Malaysia, the Commonwealth or other country;
(b) the spouse of a serving member of any force referred to in paragraph (a), who elects to become an absent voter;
(c) in the public service of the Government of Malaysia or of any State or in the service of any local authority or statutory authority exercising powers vested in it by Federal or State law, who is on duty outside the boundaries of Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah or Sarawak;
(d) the spouse of a person in the public service of the Government of Malaysia or of any State or in the service of any local authority or statutory authority exercising powers vested in it by Federal or State law who is living with her or his husband or wife outside the boundaries of Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah or Sarawak at the date of application for registration as a Parliamentary or State elector,
(e) engaged in full-time studies at any university, training college or any higher educational institution outside the boundaries of Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah or Sarawak; or
(f) the spouse of a person engaged in full-time studies at any university, training college or any higher educational institution outside the boundaries of Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah or Sarawak who is living with her or his husband or wife at the date of application for registration as a Parliamentary or State elector.
(II) according to Regulation 3(1) of Elections (Postal Voting) Regulations 2003, Any other registered voter who is,
“(b) a person certified by the Election Commission to be an election officer and liable for duties on polling day;
(c) a member of any police force established by any written law in force in Malaysia, other than a member of the Police Volunteer Reserve Force;
(d) a member of any of the public services who on poling day is employed full-time in a post outside Peninsular Malaysia or Sabah or Sarawak;
(e) a member of the Election Commission appointed under Article 114 of the Federal Constitution; or
(f) a member of any category of persons designated as postal voters by the Election Commission from time to time by notification in the Gazette,”
upon the receipt of a postal ballot paper.
2. Registration as postal voters
Under Regulation 6 of the ERER2002, (2) The names of absent voters or members of any police force established by any written law in force in Malaysia, other than members of the Voluntary Reserve Force, who are entitled under the provisions of any law relating to elections to be postal voters, shall be shown in a separate list for postal voters at the end of each part of the principal electoral roll or supplementary electoral roll in respect of each registration unit in which such persons are qualified to be registered as electors.
This means, overseas student voters, have to register as and will appear as “postal voters” on the electoral roll. That’s what the Form A (under ERER2002) is for. Only the type 2 postal voters can apply to vote with postal ballots by just filling up a Form A (under EPVR2003).
Since the electoral rolls used have to be those last gazetted before the dissolution of parliament, you (overseas students not registered as postal voters) have missed the boat now.
What may make you feel better is postal voters from overseas seldom really count. Your postal votes may in fact arrive late. Since 2004, ballots can only be printed three days after nomination day just in case some candidates quit during the three-days cooling-off period. This leaves a short time for the ballots to travel internationally. If printing will take a day, in last elections, it was only 4 days for the ballot’s two-way trip, says, from KL to London and London back to KL. With the 13-days campaign period, you will have at least 9 days this time.
Empirically, will overseas postal votes arrive in time? According to the by-law, (Regulation 13 of EPVR2003), postal ballots need to reach the Returning Officer by 5pm. Could anyone who has worked in the embassies or EC enlighten us on this? If there is no guarantee of timely arrival, then casting vote is more about expressing your feeling than making a difference and missing the chance will not matter substantially.
I am not saying that you should not bother to go to vote. All I am saying is that you regret for not getting registered earlier, roll up your sleeves. There are many more things you can do even though you cannot fly back to cast your vote.
The most important thing is to get people back home to vote for the candidates/parties you would like to support. In many countries, the “staying-at-home” party is the largest country because ordinary citizens get disillusioned by unimaginative and unresponsive politics.
Can you change the mind of one of your families or friends that s/he would vote for the candidate, party or cause that you support? If you do so, you have well compensated for your own vote. If you can change the mind of two persons, you have doubled the impact than if you only get yourself to vote. If you can change the mind of three, it’s 200% increase for your candidate/party/cause. ….
So, how many votes can you call out?