PETALING JAYA: The two government authorities in charge of voters and elections will be able to implement the proposed lowered age of voters to 18 years by the next general election but warned of multiple challenges to ensure the electoral roll is updated.

Electoral Reform Com­mittee (ERC) said engagements with the various states show they agree to the lowering of the age to 18 years for voters.

ERC was set up by the government to review election laws and systems in Malaysia.

ERC head Tan Sri Ab Rashid Ab Rahman said although lowering the age of voters to 18 and automatic registration are long overdue, the electoral rolls need to be cleaned up before automatic registration takes place.

“If we do not implement a proper system, there would be havoc (on the electoral roll) and certain constituencies may have a lot of voters and others may have too small a number.

“There must be a massive exercise by the National Registration Department (NRD) before automatic registration to make it easy for people to update their address of residence on their MyKad for us to get the right numbers in a constituency.

“We can do it (implement automatic registration) in two years and we have no choice but to do it before the next GE,” said Ab Rashid.

He was commenting on the present effort by the Pakatan Harapan government to push through three amendments – lowering age of voters to 18, candidate eligibility at 18 and automatic registration of voters.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad is expected to table the Bills for the three amendments for the second reading on July 16 before it is voted on.

The government has roped in Malaysian Admi­nis­trative Modernisation and Management Planning Unit (MAMPU) to look at the information and communications technology (ICT) needs for such an exercise.

Election Commission (EC) chairman Azhar Azizan Harun (pic) said there is much work ahead for the commission once the amendments to lower the age of voters to 18 and automatic registration are passed by a two-thirds majority in the parliament.

“EC is ready for the challenge, it is not worrying. The main thing is there must be a proper ICT system in place for automatic registration to be effective. There are three main ministries and agencies which the EC deals with to verify qualification of voters: the NRD, the Health Ministry and the Prison Department, as well as the courts,” said Azhar.

He explained that the NRD will determine the citizenship and age of the voter; the Health Ministry to determine if a voter is of sound mind; and the Prison Department to ensure that the person registered is not serving a jail sentence of more than 12 months or facing a death sentence.

At present, eligible voters who are 21 years of age and above have to register themselves manually to be on the electoral roll.

Azhar said it is of the utmost importance that automatic registration only recognises the latest address of residence in MyKad.

“There are addresses which do not exist anymore, such as the defunct Pekeliling Flats. Many Malaysians do not update their address of residence on their MyKad despite there being a law stating that one must update the address of residence,” said Azhar.

Regulation 15 of the National Registration Regulations 1990 (Amendment 2001) states that the holder of an identity card who will be changing the current place of residence to another place of residence for a period of 90 days or more must change the address on the identity card.

If this is not done, the system will register everyone using the existing addresses on MyKad.

“Then, we have those who may have obsolete addresses within the electoral roll and despite them being genuine voters, their circumstance may warrant them to be identified as ‘phantom voters’ when the electoral roll is scrutinised by watchdogs,” said Azhar.

Voters upon registration are assigned to a locality, which they will vote in, and the ICT must allow for that.

“Political parties and NGOs must further educate voters to ensure that registered voters come out to vote during elections. Malaysia actually has one of the highest voter turnouts in the world. Democracy is about the voices and representation. Our duty is to ensure that elections are run as fairly as possible,” said Azhar.

As a neutral body, Azhar said EC is not saying yes or no to the amendments but is ready to provide whatever data needed by Parliament to make the right decision.