Election Commission deputy chief Wan Ahmad Wan Omar today explained that the reason behind incidents where hundreds of voters were registered with the same address was due to former squatter colonies.

"In cases where there are clusters of people voting in one address, what we see in Kuala Lumpur today is not the same as Kuala Lumpur 10 years ago.... the demographics have changed," he told a forum in Petaling Jaya this afternoon.

An example, he said was an instance where hundreds of voters were registered under one address at Sulaiman Court when there was a squatter community there 20 years ago.

Currently, the site is occupied by the Sogo shopping complex.

"Previously, when people in squatters registered they would just choose one address, perhaps the village's chief's residence, and all their correspondence will go through there," he said.

He added that while these squatters have moved on into proper housing in other places, they have yet to update their new addresses with the EC.

"Sometimes they may have also joined the political parties' branch in that area and they were told to remain voting there and not change their address," he said.

Wan Ahmad, who came equipped with electoral reform group Bersih’s eight-point demands, gave a 90-minute speech in a bid to deflect criticism that the commission had failed to take on electoral reform.

The following are excerpts of his response:

EC has not worked to ensure overseas voters can vote

Wan Ahmad said starting next month, overseas citizens can use Form 1 to apply as postal voters.

The form will be available for download on the Internet and through embassies.

EC has not implemented outstation voting for Sabahans and Sarawakians in the peninsula

Wan Ahmad explained that this was difficult as unlike Indonesia, they would not be voting for the party as a whole but for various constituencies across those states.

“The EC said the best is to also allow them to be postal voters but some members of the parliamentary select committee (on electoral reform) were fiercely against this, they didn’t want to add any more postal voters,” he said.

The alternative, he said, was for them to re-register their addresses in the peninsula as they are already living there long-term.

EC has failed to clean up the electoral roll

“In 2011, we removed 85,000 names of people who died from the electoral roll and within six months of the parliamentary select committee on electoral reform report released in April, we have cleaned up a total of 100,000 names,” said Wan Ahmad.

He added that this was an ongoing process and some improvements had been made including a requirement for police to inform the National Registration Department (NRD) of deaths, which in turn is used to update EC’s database.

He also accused political parties of not helping out with the electoral roll and instead exploit loopholes by taking advantage of lax rules on changing addresses with the NRD to shift voters for favourable demographics.

Furthermore, he said the Elections (Registration of Electors) Regulations 2002 will be completely overhauled after the next general election to improve the voter registration process.

EC has failed to ensure 21 days campaigning period

“Previously it was only eight to nine days, but now we have guaranteed that it will be at least 11 days. This is not to say we will not meet this demand but we will decide reasonably when the time comes,” said Wan Ahmad.

However, he added that Malaysia should not be compared to countries like Nigeria or Kenya where information flow is much slower, thus requiring significantly a longer campaigning period.

EC failed to ensure free and fair access to media

Wan Ahmad explained the the EC has the arduous task of attempting to convince the government on this.

Acknowledging that allowing the opposition to only present its manifesto in public broadcast media may not be perfect, it was at least a beginning.

EC has failed to reform postal voting

“Previously 100 percent of army personnel vote through the post. Police, too, was almost 100 percent but the new advance voting is a big improvement.

“Now, I estimate at least 80 percent of postal voters will be advance voting. Only an estimated 20 percent will be postal votes especially the police because they have to take care of security during the election,” he said.

Advance voters may attempt to double vote

He insisted that the indelible ink marked on advance voters will last at least two weeks.

Furthermore, he said advance voters and regular voters are on separate electoral rolls and they cannot appear on both, thus making double voting impossible.

“Who said we have not done anything?” he said.

Wan Ahmad, who also took questions from civil society groups for an hour at the forum organised by the National Institute for Electoral Integrity, reiterated that the EC was committed to the reforms.

“We know that the next election will be a hot one, if we fail, we are going to be scolded,” he said.