The Star Online|Malaysia 13th General Election

The role of the Election Commission

The EC has three major functions. There are the delineation of parliamentary and state constituency boundaries, registering and amendment of the electoral roll and conducting the elections.

1. Review and re-delineate constituency boundaries of parliament and state seats

The process of delineation of Parliamentary and State Constituencies is stipulated under Article 113 of the Federal Constitution. So far, the delineation process has been carried out eight times. The last time the delineation process took place was on March 21, 2003.

There will be no review of the electoral boundaries for GE13, and the EC has said that any delineation will only take place after the elections.

Thus there will 222 parliamentary constituencies and 576 state constituencies, the same as in the previous GE.

How does the EC decide on the constituency boundaries? The EC conducts a review of the electoral boundaries every eight years from the previous review. And the review must be completed within two years.

In delineating the boundaries, the EC must look at several factors: a. That in the act of delineation of a constituency, the EC must ensure that the constituency should not run across two states, or cross state lines.

b. That the constituencies should be divided equally, with as far as possible an equal number of voters, except in taking into account difficulties caused by remoteness of certain areas, the EC may give certain “weightage” in favour of rural constituencies over urban ones. (Principles of delineation, Election Commission website)

Amendments of boundaries
Amendments to the boundaries have to be sent to the Prime Minister for review and at the same time a notice will be issued to newspapers, and notices will placed at the Election Commission offices for a month for any objections.

If there are objections, the EC will conduct investigations, and the EC will again display another notice for a month, if there any changes made. The final changes will presented to the Prime Minister, who will table it in the Dewan Rakyat for approval.

2. Registration of voters and amending the electoral roll

Under the Federal Constitution only registered voters 21 years and above are allowed to vote. And under Article 113 of the Federal Constitution it is the function of the EC to register qualified citizens as voters.

Each quarter, the list of new voters will be entered in the electoral rolls and the Draft Supplementary Roll will be displayed for 14 days for any claims and objections, before the list is confirmed and gazetted in the main electoral list.

Amendment of electoral roll
The EC also handles any changes in the electoral roll and one of its functions is to clean up and make amendments in case of changes in voters’ details.

How does the EC clean up the electoral vote? The EC is not allowed to delete the name of voters from the main roll electoral list without confirmation from the National Registration Department (NRD) that the voter is dead, or has relinquished his citizenship or lost his eligibility to vote under the Constitution.

According to the EC, relatives of a registered voter who has died must go to the NRD department to notify the department of the death so it can update its system and inform the EC to remove the voter’s name off the list.

For voters who have changed their status, for example a change in address, the onus is on the voter to make a formal application to do so.This is so as the EC is not given the powers to changes any details without a formal application.

The EC also has to make a check with the Armed Forces and the Police, to ensure the names of the retired personnel and their spouses be removed from the advanced and postal voting list, and be reverted to regular voters.

3. Conducting of elections

The EC has to begin its preparations for the elections well before the Parliament is dissolved.

Besides the registering of voters, cleaning up the roll and delineation of constituency boundaries, the EC must embark on the whole logistics of conducting the elections nationwide.

The time to unleash the whole machinery is short. This is so as the Election Commission has only 60 days after the dissolution of Parliament to conduct the elections.

The EC has said that it has started training its officials since October 2011 for GE13.

Many of the election officers will be in categories of returning officers, presiding officers and polling clerks, and election campaign enforcement officers. Some of them will work in a support capacity such general workers, ushers, and drivers.

According to the EC, about 240,000 election workers will deployed to help in the process of conducting GE13 and over 8,000 public premises consisting of schools, civic centres and multi-purpose halls have been vetted as possible polling centres sites.

The EC will have to ensure that all polling centres that are to be gazetted are within easy access of voters through the clearly defined electoral constituencies that have been delimited by the Commission.

In remote areas, the EC is expected to use about 60 helicopters and light aircraft, besides boats to carry election workers to polling stations, especially in Sabah and Sarawak.

To look at the EC’s role in detail during the elections, check out the article on the Election Process. link