KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 13 ― The Election Commission (EC) does not provide voters with sufficient information in its “minimalist” document outlining its proposed redrawing of voting boundaries, a lawyer said today.
Lawyer Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan, who represented the Selangor government today in its challenge of the EC’s redelineation bid, pointed out the difficulties an “ordinary voter” would face in using the document alone to file an objection within the one-month deadline.
“And in one month, they have to look at this minimalist document and lodge an objection...This we submit is woefully inadequate information,” she told the High Court, adding that this goes against the right to information.
She was referring to the EC’s 2016 notice and proposed recommendations for the redelineation of electoral boundaries in states in peninsular Malaysia, including Selangor.
For voters to even be able to know how the EC’s redelineation exercise would change the boundaries of their electoral constituencies, they would have to supplement it with information that they have to personally obtain such as the electoral roll and from local authorities, Ambiga said.
“A complete electoral roll costs about RM45,000. The full electoral roll is not accessible through the website,” she said.
“So they are saying you have to be smart to look for information here and there. That is not voter-friendly,” she said, acknowledging the EC saying it had received hundreds of voters’ objections.
“The point is there could have been more [objections] if it was more accessible,” she said.
“So what we are saying ― it’s not like they don’t have the information; they have the information, but they give us as little as possible,” she later added.
Lim Wei Jiet, another lawyer representing the Selangor government, listed five types of information that were necessary for voters to understand changes caused by the redelineation exercise and which the EC should have provided.
This includes the list of the names of all voters in a particular state or parliamentary constituency to enable an objector to find and approach like-minded voters, as a group of 100 voters is required for an objection of the redelineation exercise to be filed with the EC, he said.
“We say an ordinary voter faces a very high hurdle to find these voters,” he said, noting the “extremely prohibitive” cost of buying the electoral roll and adding that an objector’s neighbour or even fellow voter living in the same constituency may actually be registered to vote in their hometown elsewhere.
He said voters would also have to obtain maps of polling districts from the Department of Survey and Mapping, and local authorities’ maps from the respective local authorities’ offices to carry out labour-intensive analysis on their own of the EC’s redelineation exercise’s impact.
He noted the UK Boundaries Commission, which is tasked with reviewing voting boundaries in the UK by 2018, had even posted on its website a detailed geospatial map which voters can easily access.
“The user is able to zoom in to great detail right to the streets and houses,” he said.
The UK Boundaries Commission’s map shows both existing and proposed electoral boundaries with different colored lines that are superimposed and allow for easy comparison, while voters can also accurately see how the local council’s boundaries outlined in a third color overlap with the proposed new voting boundaries and determine if the altering of constituencies would cause inconvenience.
“If there are too many constituencies in one local authority, that local authority would not be able to properly serve them,” he said.
Lim also highlighted that the Redistribution Committee in charge of reviewing voting boundaries in Australia’s Northern Territories had even listed out which polling districts would be transferred between constituencies and gives detailed explanations on why such changes are required.
“That essentially in a nutshell sums up the yardstick where the election commission in other jurisdictions is able to do. We say the same yardstick should apply to the respondents (EC),” he said, after having shared the UK and Australian experiences.
Today is the continued hearing of the Selangor government’s legal challenge against the EC’s proposed redelineation exercise, which the state government said is unconstitutional and should be declared invalid.
The lawsuit was filed last October 19 against the EC, the EC chairman Datuk Seri Mohd Hashim Abdullah and EC secretary Datuk Abdul Ghani Salleh over the alleged unconstitutional redelineation exercise — which includes the renaming of constituencies and the transferring of voters through the redrawing of voting boundaries.
Hearing before High Court judge Azizul Azmi Adnan resumes on October 20.