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Allow Sabahans, S'wakians to vote in p'sula: Bersih 2.0
Published on: Saturday, September 23, 2017

PETALING JAYA: The Election Commission (EC) and the Govern­ment should initiate reforms to allow East Malaysians living in Peninsular Malaysia to be registered as absentee voters, says Bersih 2.0.

Its Chairman Maria Chin Abdullah said existing regulations should be amended to allow Sabahans and Sarawakians to vote in the peninsula where they work and reside in.

Maria said likewise, Peninsular Malaysians living in Sabah and Sarawak should also be given the right to cast their ballot papers there.

"The cost for Sabahans and Sarawakians living here to go back to vote is high. So it is much better if arrangements can be made for them to vote in Peninsular Malaysia," she told the Star.

Maria said based on an estimate, over 150,000 registered Sabahan and Sarawakian voters were living in the peninsula.

"During every election, these voters must spend hundreds of ringgit and find time to make the journey back to their home constituencies to vote," she said, adding that these difficulties resulted in a lower voter turnout.

Maria said advance voting would allow a voter to vote and that these ballot papers could be counted on the same day.

This, she said, would create a more "transparency and accountability" electoral process.

"The voting period has to be a day before the polling date, so you don't have a problem of ballot boxes being moved," she said. Currently, advance voting is held five days before the polling date.

She said if the EC could arrange for emergency workers, police, army and media personnel to vote earlier, it should be able to do the same for east Malaysians.

Co-founder of Rise of Sarawak Efforts Tan Soh Kheng said that since the last general election, the civil society group had encouraged east Malaysians to go back to vote.

"There are so many east Malaysian students and working adults who would like to go back to vote.

But we realised that many of them need financial support to do this," she said.

Sarawakian voter Kumbang Samat said he had lived in the peninsula since 1998 and had never gone back to vote during past elections.

"My family will give priority during period of festivities to return to Sarawak.

The cost will be very high just to fly back to vote with my wife and children," he said.

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