Sibu: The postal ballot loop-holes

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UPDATED: Pakatan polling agents were unable to witness the casting of ballots by over a thousand postal voters who were said to be located outside the Sibu police headquarters and two main army camps.

That’s the assertion made by an experienced Pas polling agent familiar with the process, which revealed glaring weaknesses and loop-holes in the Sibu by-election.

Back at Wisma Sanyan, the main coordinating centre for postal ballots, the agents for the Sibu by-election exercised unprecedented scrutiny over the counting and verification of the ballots.

As the agents spotted more and more discrepancies in the postal ballots, the pile of spoilt and rejected ballots grew higher and higher. (The agents had been thoroughly briefed on what to look out for.)

One official snapped, “At this rate, we will be here until midnight!”

To which, a DAP rep retorted, “Fine, we are willing to stay here all night, but we want to make sure everything is properly done.”

The Sibu by-election put the spotlight on postal votes as never before. An entire nation waited with bated breath for the outcome of the postal ballots. The DAP’s Wong Ho Leng was leading by 2,651 votes (excluding postal ballots) but that majority was about the same number as the postal ballot papers, which usually goes overwhelmingly to the BN.

Much confusion arose during the live coverage on this blog: were there 2,500-plus postal votes (as earlier reported) or 2,800-plus?

I was determined to try and cast more light on the process. For far too long, the conduct of postal balloting has been carried out in secrecy and most Malaysians know very little about what takes place. This continuing opacity has great implications for future elections, including the coming Sarawak state election.

In fact, what puzzles me is that if individual postal voters can cast their ballots at army and police polling centres in and around Sibu, why can’t they vote like everyone else – perhaps early on polling day or a day earlier if they are going to be on duty on polling day? Why do they need “postal ballots” if most of them are based in Sibu anyway?

Let’s look more closely at what transpired behind the scenes:

Postal votes – the numbers

Official number of army/police postal voters: 2,537
(according to Election Commission press statement on 16 April)

Second layer/ad hoc postal voters: 290
These are Election Commission officials from Sibu who were on duty. (In the same press statement, the Commission said they would have a total of 1,149 workers on duty for the by-election.) Who controls how a Sibu resident can become a EC worker, right up to polling day?

Ballot papers issued: 2,827

Results:

BN – 2,323
DAP – 70
Independent – 36
Spoilt – 208
Not returned (did not vote) – 190

Those who didn’t vote/return their ballots comprised:

Election Commission workers – 179 (62% of the 290 election workers who were issued ballots did not turn up to vote after Pakatan polling agents were alerted to watch out for them.)
Army – 8
Police – 3
Total – 190

11 ballot boxes in all for postal votes:

Police – 3
Army – 7
Election Commission workers – 1

Now, here’s a chronology of what happened. This chronology will be further updated/revised based on feedback I receive:

12 May

Ballot papers are issued at Wisma Sanyan:

Envelope A – contains ballot paper.
Envelope B – contains Form 2, which provides details of voters and the serial number of the ballot paper, to be signed by the witness, usually a senior officer.

Polling agents check the serial numbers, names and IC numbers against the electoral rolls.

Both these envelopes are placed in a larger brown envelope.

There are four postal ballot polling centres: Wisma Sanyan (election workers); police HQ in Sibu, and two army camps around Sibu (Kem Oya Batu 14 and Kem Rescom Batu 10).

Officers from these centres turn up at Wisma Sanyan to collect the ballots for the personnel at the respective centres.

13-15 May

Now this is where things get a bit hazy.

Party polling agents are present at the Sibu Police HQ and the two army camps on polling days (13-14 May). Army and police officers sign Borang 2 as witnesses. (Why do these officers need to be witnesses? Why do you need a witness form with the voter’s details and the ballot paper serial number on it?) And many of the postal voters cast their ballots there and then at the centre.

But there is an apparently serious lack of independent oversight over 1,040 postal ballots for which the voters are not based in the police HQ or at the army camps but are apparently stationed at locations outside Sibu, according to an experienced Pas polling agent. These ballots are cast at unknown locations with no polling agents present. “There is a lot of room for abuse and manipulation,” suggests the agent.

As for Election Commission workers, they are allowed to take their ballots home and return them by 16 May – another big loophole. How do you prevent ballot papers from being sold or given to others to vote? And what is the check and balance to ensure that the same workers cannot vote again in the normal way? The Assistant Returning Officer, their spouse or anyone else can sign as witness. Individual postal voters drop off their envelopes at Wisma Sanyan from 13-15 May.

16 May

All ballots papers are returned to Wisma Sanyan from the camps and police HQ at around 10.00am. Voting officially closes by 5.00pm, but most of the voting is completed by the afternoon anyway.

The forms are then separated from the ballot paper envelopes. Officials hold up Form 2 and Envelope A at the point of separation for polling agents to witness.

Polling agents quickly check the voters and witness (usually a superior officer) particulars on the form: name, address, IC number, signature, date. Eagle-eyed agents look out for about eight different particulars and memorise them especially the witness signature (as they are not allowed to refer to earlier forms to double check the consistency).

It is at this point that ballot papers may be rejected as spoilt.

The usual reasons for rejection in Sibu:
no signature
– wrong date (a few were dated in March or early May!)
– IC number doesn’t contain the pre-fix ‘T’ (for Tentera).
the same witness but signature differs from that in other Forms bearing the same witness name.

In all, 208 votes are agreed to be spoilt.

Before the ballot papers are placed in the boxes, another round of checking takes place: the folded ballot paper serial numbers are matched against the serial numbers on Envelope A.

6.00pm – Counting begins at Wisma Sanyan

8.30pm – Counting ends

Ballot papers packed into boxes ready to move to polling centre.

At this point, the DAP’s Wong Ho Leng is leading by 2,651 votes ahead (by a 50:42 margin) of SUPP candidate Robert Lau, with only postal votes remaining.

But returning officers and EC officials are reportedly holed up in a room engaged in discussions and “tabulating figures”. DAP agents claim tabulating should only take about 30 minutes.

10.00pm – EC officials bring down the boxes – but where is Form 15, which the polling agents have to sign?

DAP polling agents are told not to touch the boxes. Police are called in to yellow-tape the area where the boxes lie.

The form is finally produced but not signed by polling agents. DAP agents are still not happy but let it pass as their candidate is going to win anyway.

10.30pm – Boxes arrive at Dewan Suarah, the main counting centre.

Wong Ho Leng is declared the winner by 398 votes (2,651 majority before postal votes – 2,323 BN postal votes + DAP postal votes 70). The winning majority is exactly the same as the total of the spoilt (208) and unreturned postal ballots (190).

Had the Pakatan polling agents been less vigilant the result could have been a stalemate!

If you spot any inaccuracies above, do leave your comments and clarifications.

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mut

All that SPR needs to do to stop all criticism on postal votes could fall into two broad categories: 1) Access to the postal voters – BN and PR should be given equalt opportunity to canvass the voters in camps. If direct selling and electrical companies can go in to market their products, then PR leaders should at least be given the same amount of access. Now, only BN leaders are allowed in camps. 2) The voting process even all army/police camps should be under supervision of the competing parties and once completed, the votes should be counted and declared… Read more »

PoorMe

Hello everyone, first of all thanks for the sharing of information and sources about this delay of Sibu elections results. I’d never read of the political news until this topic has become the hot news reported for several days on TV news program. As what have been told that the votes were being rejected due to several reasons, and one of it is that “different signatures signed by the same witness on different postal ballots from army camps” What does it meant by that? And how does it spoil the votes? Is that means the signatures signed by the same… Read more »

Malaysia First

In an ongoing debate (side topic from the above post) on the Micah Mandate website regarding the suitability and wisdom of private institutions accepting money during election campaigns, I believe a good idea to resolve the political dilemma for voters is to set up a special anti-vote buying fund contributed by all the monies that the parties have given (legally, illegally, ethically or unethically) to sway voters’ voting decisions.

http://jeremiahliang.blogspot.com/2010/05/1malaysia-anti-vote-buying-fund.html

GB

Who is the clown called K ?

a … cyber trooper ??

Sandiwara XYZ

Can the those involeved be charged with TREASON for their acts? May be not now but later in the near future? These people must never be forgiven. We need Clint Eastwood in Bolehland fro this matter.

mike

their presence werent as strong in 08 n as aggresive in insisting for wats right.
we just need ppl to breathe down their neck in every moment the right way.

personally i am glad DAP won. waited all my life for this but Wong Ho Leng. that character is abit weak in our opinion. But this time round we were not voting for him or the party. we r voting for us.

mike

this happens in every election here.
what took u outsiders so long to figure out this?

if DAP was around in every election like the recent one, i am sure DAP cud ve taken Sibu in 08.

110% sure

tunglang

Other countries use postal votes for efficiency and practicality. But this country use it to (allegedly) manipulate, influence and cheat for devious purposes. Want proofs, go get from PR. Go to Kelantan and Terengganu and ask what happened in the last election. The latest happened in the Sibu by election. Ask PAS polling agents.
The truth speaks louder than false arguments.

ONG

Hi Anil, Good effort-the `postal votes’in Malaysia is everything but. Even the SPR admit that much at the TI’s forum recently. There is no posting involved in the postal votes. The postal voters are locally registered-so no need for posting. So why force them to do postal votes? A fallacy from SPR is to say that the police and armed forces must stay in the barracks/ police stations or else the country’s security would be compromised. What a load of bull: look at how Bangladesh do it-the police and military vote in the same polling station that they are on… Read more »

K

ONG Instead of keep harping on the same old issue and making one unfounded accusations after another, please provide facts and proofs. Otherwise you and your political masters are no better than the old Ah Peks at Kopitiams. Now you want us to follow the lead of Bangladesh on democracy ? Are you out of your mind ? But what you conveniently forget to mention is postal votes are common in the UK and the US and other developed countries. If these countries allow postal votes why can’t we ? There is nothing wrong with postal votes and the only… Read more »

Pauline

Yes ! Let’s have overseas voting. I bet BN would chicken out at the thought of that. To Malaysians abroad, please come home to vote for the next GE. Your vote is as precious to PR as postal vote is to BN. Make Malaysia a better place for Malaysians back home.

Sewel

that evening when they were counting the postal votes i could see the smiles on the BN supporters.

“Sekarang DAP kena lah” quipped one happy BN supporter.

So i just casually asked him who are this so called postal voters?

“Dari kubur la member” he laughed.

Need I say more. Perhaps he was referring to alleged phantom voters (pengundi hantu).

K

sewel

Only a few authorised people are allowed within the counting hall. So I wonder how did you get in ? Or you just making this story up ala-RPK ?

johan09

GERAKAN K IS SO WORRIED THE COURT WILL ANNUL THE HS ELECTION RESULT !!!!!
SINCE WHEN THE COURT HAS FAVOUR THE OPPOSITION ???????
ZAID IBRAHIM PURPOSE IN BRINGING THIS TO COURT IS JUST TO RECONFIRM HIS PRESUMPTION IS RIGHT !!!!!!!
DONT YOU AGREE GERAKAN K ??

Gerakan K

No need to worry lah, brother.

Zaid is just hungry for media attention with no genuine issue. Unlike the Kapar MP, the indian who dare to expose the possible wrong doing in PR State. However no update after the complaint being raised. You knowlah, it happened in the PR state.

Do you think Zaid actually is a mole from UMNO ???

JOHAN09

Thank you for not disputing the presumption that our judiciary have never favour the opposition !

Bigjoe

If they are going to have postal votes, then they should have overseas voting. The logistic do not differ that much but BN could die with 1 million oversea voters mostly voting for PR…

Phua Kai Lit

Dear Haisara

Thanks for your comments and for enligtening us, the blog readers.

Armed forces and police personnel should vote according to their personal preferences and conscience i.e. whether they want to support BN or Pakatan Rakyat candidate.

If they are forced to vote against their will, they should just spoil their vote! Better than the vote going to the undeserving candidate.

K

Phua

How did you reach the conclussion that the army and the police are not voting with their conscience ? Since your are a man of science, shouldnt you speak based on data and not on some crap statement issued by the demented leadership of DAP ?

O

Postal votes should just be abolished! That will not have people like the poor Gerakan K, always looking with his tongue out and salivating at the prospect of benefitting from these handicaps. So sad, I have not seen my dearest K for a couple of days now. Just too much trouble in MIC, it just goes to prove that loyalty in politics, is just but “lu tolong wa, wa tolong lu”, who would imagine Sam would be where he is today? Once you are down and out, you will see your real friends. Apparently, he has not only got to… Read more »

K

O I hope you don’t confusing myself with my buddy Gerakan K. As for your concern on MIC, well, I am no MIC members and I m sure the party can take care of themselves pretty well. I am sure that being fed with the propaganda of Mkini and MInsider, you have no clue on the actual issues within the MIC. And I am not about to enlighten you either. Sufficient to say that I am unconcerned about the issue. I would rather point out to the fact that your home ground of Kedah is looking shaky with a several… Read more »

O

K dear, Where is Market Street? Hey! No problem, I am absolutely clear between you and Gerakan K. And one thing, please do not compare our excellent friendship with that of Saiful. Don’t ever mention that ok? Also, game to come with me to Kampung Sungai Getah 2? I am a bit tired of late, but, I think we should not quarrel on this blog over the above matter and the six other destinations that I had mentioned to you earlier. We should rather work together and help those poor folks, shall we? A little bit happy with the appreciating… Read more »

K

O I would leave Kg Sg Getah in your good hands since you have been doing an excellent job there, based on your comments here. Furthermore, I m no politician but a salary man with family to feed and work to do. As for the USD appreciating, I am glad too. It is good for Malaysia as well we can be more competitive economically. This will spur our exports and even make our GDP grow faster. I think any responsible leader will cut down on subsidies and that’s the right move. Of course useless politicians like LGE, Nik Aziz and… Read more »

Antares

Losing power is the worst nightmare for the two White Hairs. That’s why in Sibu, the EC (allegedly) spared no effort to manipulate a BN victory – but good thing the DAP hawks spotted the discrepancies. By then it was far too late for the EC to assure a win for BN, so they conceded by granting DAP only a slim majority when it really should have been close to 3,000.

We’ve seen enough of how unethically the EC operates to put them in the same category as the PDRM and MACC. Shameless!

haisara

We must scrutinize these postal votes in the coming elections. My experience as polling agent for PAS for the last two GE was that the percentage for spoil votes was very small for Sibu. The spoil votes in my constituency was about 30 percent. Our uniforms personnel wrote all sorts of things such as ‘tipu’, ‘temberang’ and make all kinds of caricatures on the voting slips. ”the same witness but signature differs from that in other Forms bearing the same witness name.” was indeed a normal occurrences. A disputed votes was separated and was again vetted and contested for its… Read more »

tunglang

Abolish this questionable postal voting. We know why.
Still need to go thro’ the hastle and waste valuable human resources and tax payers’ money to carry out this out-dated practice? Are we still in Emergency?
If BN is sincere to Rakyat about election procedures and fairness, just abolish it. And be a MAN to take this challenge to face the truth come every by election or general election.
This also will restore EC credibility once and for all. Otherwise, get the UN to supervise. What a shame!

Gerakan K

Another gasing is spinning even though the spinner’s team has won it.

What do you want ??? There is only one seat for Sibu. No matter how you bad mouth EC, you can’t get 2 MP seats for Sibu.

Further argument will make these cheerleaders more happier ??? I’m so sick of these spinners.

p/s: look at the Hulu Selangor sore loser, he wants to annul the poll result[1]. Maybe he should learn from BN’s gentleman attitude in election.

Reference:
[1]Zaid files petition to annul Hulu Selangor result (http://www.themalaysianinsider.com/malaysia/article/zaid-files-petition-to-annul-hulu-selangor-result/)

tay.kesit

Gerakan K !!! May God pleased your mind to think positively. Do you know what are the outcome now happen after this by – election ? The sleepless SUPP leader especially Wong Soon Koh try his best to get attention of the DUN sitting by blaming and spinning the facts BY SAYING that PR leader and supporter are rude and less morale during campaigning period ? The facts is that BN now is having a nightmare of losing another third city status it was MIRI to opposition. Look at it now : Kuching MP – Chong Chen Jien of DAP… Read more »

O

Tay, You know what SUPP is undergoing right now? You had consulted the right person. Gerakan K is the right person to ask. He really has the experience as what SUPP is facing right now. Well, what SUPP is facing right now is exactly what Gerakan went through in the tsunami of 2008. At least SUPP is now aware what is coming and may get prepared. Gerakan? Well they were the State Government in 2008 in Penang and as always were very confident and arrogant, just like Georgie and Soon Koh. During 2008, they told the voters, Reinvent, and the… Read more »

johan09

POSTAL VOTES SHOULD NOT BE DIFFERENTIATED TO THE EXTENT THAT ARE PRIVILEDGE VOTES HENCE REQUIRE PRIVILEDGE ATTENTION !
POSTAL VOTERS ARE NORMAL CITIZENS, THEREFORE THEY SHOULD VOTE ON THE SAME POLLING DAY, AT THEIR NEAREST PLACE OF DUTY PERHAPS 1 HOUR BEFORE/AFTER POLLING STARTS .
IN SIBU, THOSE BALLOT BOXES BEING STORE FOR TWO DAYS GIVE PLENTY OPPORTUNITIES FOR THESE BALLOT BOXES TO BE TAMPERED WITH !!!!!!!!!!!!

innuendo

Spoilt – 208
Not returned (did not vote?) – 190

dont you see there…it is 208+190=398!!!!
Ho Leng majority is 398….i think Ho Leng was save by the bell!

LBJ

This (appears to be a) blatant attempt in stealing an election. This is a symptom of a corrupt BN.