I attended a PACA briefing this week and signed up as a volunteer for the second largest parliamentary constituency in Malaysia – Serdang. I would seriously encourage all Malaysians to at least do this thing once in your life-time, to gain a better understanding of the democratic process in Malaysia.
The briefing was divided into two one-hour sessions – the Polling and Counting Agent roles. Most volunteers would have to play both roles on election day.
A polling agent has the duty to be vigilant throughout the polling process to ensure that everything is done according to procedure and to avoid any sort of blatant fraud. A polling agent has to watch how everything is conducted within each voting room and to ensure that the Elections Commissions and the Voters are doing things correctly.
Some highlights about the elections this time around is the use of indelible ink. So, there is now a 2nd clerk in charge of examining and inking the voter’s left pointer from skin, nail, to skin. The idea is that the inking would solve the problem of double voting.
Also, this time around, the EC has opted to use rubber stamp patterns instead of the traditional punch-hole patterns for each ballot sheet. Every room will be given a numbered stamp to ensure the integrity of each ballot sheet and that it belongs to the same room.
As the polling process takes the whole day, there will be shift duties assigned to each polling agent. However, everyone has to serve at least 2-hours as the agent is not allowed to be replaced during the first two hours. Depending on how many volunteers there are, there will either be two or three shifts throughout the day.
A counting agent has the duty to be vigilant throughout the counting process. The counting agent’s job is going to be rather stressful as they would need to scrutinise each ballot to ensure that it is correctly counted and to reject any doubtful votes. Finally, they are also to ensure that the math add up correctly.
Some highlights this time around are that the EC would accept almost anything as a valid vote. While a “cross” was the only acceptable mark in the past, almost anything can be a valid mark this time around – cross, circle, dot, tick, line etc. The only things barred are the use of words and pictures.
So, it would not be a good idea to write curses like “Idiot”, “Liar”, “Cheat” etc on the ballot sheet no matter how cross you may be with the candidate. Just cross out the appropriate box and let it be that.
Also, automatic recounts can be triggered if the winning margin is 4% or less. If the officers are too tired to bother with it, the counting agent may request for a recount, only once though. I sure hope that my station ends up with a nice big margin so that there is no need for any sort of recount.
As there is a risk that the indelible ink may smudge the ballot sheet during voting, a voter whose ballot sheet has been smudged should ask the KTM if they could swap the ballot sheets with a new one. The KTM has the authority to do it as he can mark the smudged ballot sheet as “spoilt”.
Anyway, there is still time to attend training and register as a Polling/Counting Agent with your favourite candidate. Do it today!