Know Your Rights As A Voter — True Stories

How many Malaysian voters actually know their rights at the polling station on the polling day? How many PACA (Polling Agent and/or Counting Agent) volunteers really know how to use these rights and also inform their family and friends of their rights as a voter?

Unfortunately, my wild guess is few of them were aware of and had exercised their rights. People were too focused in taking down BN. Let me tell you three little stories of mine on the polling day.

My mom exercising her rights.

After reporting myself to my team leader at SMK Canossa Convent around 7AM that morning, I gathered with my wife and my 81-year-old mom. Our kids were tagging along as no one could take care of them and I thought it was the best and easiest way to take them along. Also, it was a perfect chance to give them an early education about polling.

By the time we arrived at Pay Fong 3 Primary School, there were already many people queueing up at the identity checking booth. The school’s compound was small so only two lines could be formed. They should have a special queue for senior citizens as well as less abled and disabled individuals. One observation of mine was that most senior citizens at this polling station were not accompanied by their family. After confirming my mom’s and my wife’s identity, we proceeded to their polling stations respectively. My wife was voting at Stream 3 and my mom at Stream 1. As soon as we stepped into Stream 1, I requested the presiding officer (KTM or Ketua Tempat Mengundi) to fill up Form 10 (Borang 10) so that my mom could appoint me as her representative to assist her in voting. At first, they were not sure about this procedure so I explained to them that Form 10 is to allow voter who lacks ability to vote on their own, in this case my 81-year-old mother, to appoint me as her representative to assist her in voting. I told them my concerns: First, my mother is 81 years old and it is quite inconvenient for her to navigate herself along the flow of the vote casting setup. Secondly, at her age, she may not completely understand the vote casting process. Finally, the presiding officer handed me Form 10 and offered a chair for my mom to sit while I filled up the form. They also put the people behind us on hold. The casting process took us less than 10 minutes from stepping into the station, to explaining and filling up the form and then my mom drew the “X” on both ballot papers and casted them into respective ballot boxes.

The next story was about myself as a voter.

After my wife and my mom had casted their votes, I drove them back to Taman Rempah which is just opposite to Ping Ming Primary School. The school was my polling center. After seeing my wife drove off, I crossed the road and walked towards the school. There were many Chinese and Malays voters and I wished them good morning when I met them. The checking station here had divided the voters into streams. Each stream had voters from specific place. Mine was stream 8. Within seconds, I had my ID and Stream confirmed. I proceeded to Stream 8 upstairs.

In my polling station (Stream 8), the Clerk 1 who verified my ID, read my identity card number. It would be difficult for Polling Agent to find my identity card number on their list because the list was not sorted by identity card number. It was sorted by serial number. None of the Polling Agent demanded her to read out my serial number. I then told the clerk to read out the page number, serial number then followed by my identity card number and name. She was stunned. She did what I told her but she did not strike off my name. I proceeded to Clerk 2 where I had my left index finger painted with the almighty and expensive “indelible” ink while I kept my eyes on Clerk 1. She realized I was staring at her so she stared back at me. I then told her not to look at me and urged her to strike off my name from the list. Still keeping my eyes on her, I proceeded to Clerk 3 where I collected my ballot papers. She was still staring at me until the next voter came in and I opened my ballot papers to check. Satisfied with the condition of my ballot papers, I proceeded.

The ballot papers were folded once into half. As I passed by the ballot boxes, I could see some of the ballot papers in the boxes had opened up, exposing voters’ supposedly confidential election choice. Under the constitution of Malaysia, people’s votes must be confidential. What confidentiality is all about when their ballot papers are all exposed?

I drew my X’s and folded my ballot papers twice into quarter and slipped them into the boxes. Then, I walked to the presiding officer to complain. She told me it was definitely folded this way and folding once was enough. I rebutted by telling her and also showing her those ballot papers in the boxes were exposed. She refused to change the way the clerk folded the ballot paper. This time, I spoke with a stern tone, “Begini, saya boleh buat hari Cik ini senang atau susah. Kalau Cik mengeras tidak mengubah cara kamu lipat kertas undi, maka saya akan minta mengisi Borang 10A buat bantahan terhadap Cik menafikan kesulitan pengundi. Selepas itu, saya akan buat laporan polis dengan Borang 10A dan Cik kena menjawab kemudian nanti. Jadi, pilihan terpulang kepada Cik.” (Look, I can make your day very hard or I can make your day as easy as you wished. If you refuse to change the way to fold the paper, I will request to file Form 10A to protest that you ignore to protect the secrecy of the voters. I will then file a police report against you with Form 10A and you will have to answer. So, which one do you want?) She then requested for my identification card, took note and then instructed the Clerk 3 to fold the paper twice into quarterly. I thanked her and I told the two polling agents the proper method of folding ballot paper.

I immediately called DAP’s candidate YB Sim Tong Him to inform him of this breach of secrecy. What happened next, I didn’t know.

Frankly, I am still not very sure what is the purpose/power of Form 10A even at this time of writing. I attended the PACA training 3 times and I was told of three different purposes. I was just too daring to threaten to use Form 10A to make the presiding officer to comply. I guessed she was also unaware of the purpose of Form 10A.

The third story was also about me, only this time as a polling agent.

After casted my votes, I went back to SMK Canossa Convent and took over the 11AM shift. I was assigned to Stream 1 which was designated for senior citizens. Here, I observed many ignorant and sad cases. I saw many senior citizens who are older than my mom (from their IC number), either came alone or accompanied by their children, spouse or someone. My eyes were wet seeing these elderly citizens coming to vote despite of their old age and inconvenient movement. None of the younger person had accompanied the senior citizens into the polling station. They stood outside and watched. It seemed no one was aware of Form 10 (to elect representative) to exercise their rights as a voter and the voter’s family member.

At many other separate occasions during my duty, I saw many voters were either with restricted movement or on wheelchair from Stream 2 and 3 which were located upstairs. They were sent to Stream 1 to mark their finger and cast their votes. These voters were accompanied by their family member, I believed, and the presiding officer of their respective polling station or stream. We were only told that they were from other stream. After a few cases, I voiced up and my presiding officer and the other presiding officers weren’t quite happy about that. The other presiding officer from Stream 2 was quite angry saying that she would accompany them here to vote after verifying their identification. After that she would sent the votes up to drop into the ballot boxes. My argument was, I had no idea who these people were and I certainly had no idea where those ballot papers would end up to. She raised her voice, “I am the presiding officer and I have the authority to that.” She is a Chinese. I replied sternly, “I don’t care if you are presiding officer or not. Clearly you have violated the electoral procedures and secrecy cannot be guaranteed.” The situation was about to erupt and luckily the representative agent from the party I was representing came. I explained to him the situation and the possible breach of electoral procedures and secrecy. I also raised why no one used Form 10 for these less-abled voters to elect their representative to represent them to cast their votes. This could avoid conveying ballot papers and all the confusion. The lady would not want to budge and said, “They are not disabled like blinded person. They still can vote.” I rebutted again, “Form 10 is not about disabilities. It is for senior citizens and also less-abled voters to elect their representative to represent them. Our constitution empowers such rights to the voters to elect their representative if they are unable or less able to cast their votes themselves. Do you know the difference between disabled and less-abled?” She stuttered and walked away abruptly.

After understanding the situation and the possible remedy, our representative agent proceeded to make arrangement to resolve this issue. My presiding officer came and spoke to me, “Awak jangan melampaui kuasa awak sebagai ejen tempat mengundi.” (You don’t overstep as a Polling Agent.) I replied, “Saya bukan nak melampaui kuasa Encik. Sebagai seorang ejen tempat mengundi, saya bukan sekadar sebagai seorang pemerhati sahaja. Saya memerhati situasi kelam-kabut tadi dan saya ingin memberi cadangan supaya menyenangkan kerja-kerja encik dan KTM lain. Dia yang menaik berang dan tidak mahu dengar pendapat saya.” (I don’t mean to overstep. As a polling agent, I know my rights and not only as a observer. I assessed the chaotic situation and I wanted to make suggestion to ease your job as well as others’. She was the one who got angry and refused to listen to my suggestion.) He silenced for a moment and I continued, “Maafkan saya jika saya telah menyentuh perasaan encik.” (Please forgive me if I hurt your feelings.) He looked at me and then smiled. We shook hand and went back to our duty.

Now, back to the senior citizen cases. About forty five minutes before my shift ended (12:15PM), a man in his forties or early fifty came with his 90-year-old father. They told him to wait outside but he insisted to accompany his father. The man was very stressed and the situation was heating up quickly. Thankfully, my presiding officer requested him to fill Form 10 to allow his father to appoint him as representative to accompany. When the officer told the man to sign the form, he refused and told the officer that it was his father who was going to vote so why must he sign the form. According to the rules, polling agents were not allowed to communicate with the voters. I could only watch. Somehow, the man looked at me and we made eye contact. I gave him an affirmative nod. He calmed down, signed the form and proceeded with his father. After his father slipped the ballot papers into the box and before they left, he thanked everyone and returned an appreciative nod to me. I nodded and smiled as a return. At that moment, I knew I was making a difference and my eyes were filled with tears one more time, only this time with joy. The presiding officer walked pass my desk, nodded and smiled at me. I did the same in return.

When the next agent came to relieve me, I quickly briefed her and handed my shift over to her. Before I left the polling station, I shook everyone’s hand and thanked them.

Knowledge is power. Know your rights and uphold them firmly. You can make a difference.

Do you know your rights? Do you find this post helpful? Do you intend to become a polling and/or counting agent in the PRU14?