Back in September last year, there was a huge surge in voter registration due to news going around that if you wanted to vote in the next General Election, you needed to be registered before the 30th of September, and the crowd during this period was crazy. Ross Stephenson was also among the people, but this story isn’t about how he registered, but what happened after that.
If you registered as a voter in September last year, you can already go and check if your registration was successful. But when Ross went to check, he got something quite peculiar.
And he was all like “What even?” and posted the picture above asking if anyone knew what was going on. That’s where we come in. We saw the post, and our Editor ask us to kepo and go with him to the Suruhanjaya Pilihan Raya (SPR) office to find out what the heck was going on.
New voters can be asked to prove whether their address is right
So SPR updates their voter database on a quarterly basis. During our last trip to SPR’s office, they actually listed down the batches, and when these batches could check whether their registration was successful.
With that in mind, let’s go back to our trip. So we follow our friend to the SPR office to ask about how he kena bantah, and one of the first things that the guy at the counter in this.
“Oh banyak kes macam ni.” – SPR officer*
And of course we were quite shocked because the both of us had not heard of something like this before. In fact, almost all the CILISOS staff have never heard of this. Basically how it works is that when a new batch of voters is announced, there will be a time period where a person can say…
“Hey, I don’t think you actually live at this address. I bantah your registration.”
But that only got us more confused because how da heck do people know who to bantah and who not to bantah?
The details of new voters are put on display…and anyone from the public can bantah
So when we asked the officer why in the world would someone bantah our friend’s registration (especially when he’s lived in the same place all his life), he said that it was possible it was because his address was so short that it looked suspicious.
Okay fair enough, Ross’ address really was very short, but then how in the world did they get his address in the first place? Well the officer then pointed to this.
So every time the SPR confirms a new batch of voters, the SPR state office would do something called a “Pameran Rang Daftar Pemilih” (the display of documents you see above), which is basically a small exhibition of documents with all the names of the new voters in that particular state.
For example, one stack of papers would be labelled Damansara Perdana, and in that stack will have the names of every new voter…with their address and IC. So our friend’s details along with every new voter, was up for display for public viewing.
And as members of the public go through these names (for whatever reason), if they feel that any person in the pameran’s database is lying, they can fill in a form, pay RM10, and the SPR will look into it. That is exactly what happened to Ross.
What to do if your registration kena bantah?
After we understood what was going on, we asked the counter guy what to do.
“Kena tunggu dua minggu. SPR akan hantar surat.” – SPR officer
So yes, if any of you notice the same thing when you check your voter registration, don’t do what we did and rush to the SPR office because they won’t be able to do anything just yet. The way this whole bantah thing works is that after SPR has compiled all the bantahans, they filter through it and pick the most suspicious ones to continue investigating.
If your case passes the filter, they will send you a letter (the counter guy said to wait 2 weeks) summoning you to the SPR office. On the day of the trial, you’re required to bring your electric bill, or water bill, or any document that proves your address is correct, and you will present your evidence to the SPR judge and the guy who bantah you.
But what happens after that?
Well, Ross has to wait for his letter so his story stops there for now. Thankfully we managed to get in touch with another guy who went through the whole process (he wanted to remain anonymous so we’ll just call him Fred). Just like Ross, Fred also had someone bantah him, but he didn’t find out until he received a letter saying a few things:
- Someone bantah him.
- He has to come to the SPR office to settle the case on a particular date.
- If he doesn’t show up, his voter registration would be cancelled.
So on that day, Fred said he and the guy that bantah entered a room with a judge. Long story short, the bantah guy never explained why he felt Fred was lying about his address, and Fred just showed his IC with the address to the judge. The judge ruled that Fred was telling the truth, and that was that, Fred won his case. In fact, Fred was told by SPR that the bantah guy would have to pay him RM100 in compensation (but until now the money never came and Fred also didn’t bother to keep track).
Why in the world does such a weird system exist?
If you have many questions about this whole bantah thing and the pameran of new voters, we assure you, we have questions to. We tried to get in touch with the SPR for more info, but at time of writing we weren’t able to get the answers to our questions. What the SPR website does tell us is that the pameran is done not just for the public, but for new voters and voters who have changed their address to check if the information is correct.
And to be fair, Malaysia isn’t the only country that showcases the details of new voters. We found articles mentioning places like Gambia, Ghana, and the UK. (And seeing how Gambia and Ghana were both formerly ruled by the British, it’s possible that we adopted this practice from the UK themselves.) But there is one problem with this…
Some time last year, the government of Washington DC, USA, published a full voter list online, which included voters’ addresses and political affiliations. And naturally, people were upset that their data could now be accessed by anyone. In the midst of the backlash, this article highlighted the need to balance transparency with privacy.
In Malaysia’s case, we now see examples of how people could be called to court by a random person which may have no basis whatsoever, or worse, their data being used for other purposes without their consent like data miners (which is against the law btw). And perhaps the current system should be improved to protect the data of voters, first and foremost.