Overseas Voting Reforms Survey Report Volume 3
GLOBAL BERSIH A Civil Society Proposal for the Election Commission and Electoral Reform Committee of Malaysia
JULY 2019 | 10 Rue Dr. Alfred Vincent, CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland
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Volume 3: Overseas Voting Reforms Survey Report Contents Glossary .................................................................................................................................................. iii Participant Codes ............................................................................................................................... iv Chapter 1: Background and Overview .................................................................................................... 1 Chapter 2: Summary of Results and Observations ................................................................................. 3 Chapter 3: Detailed Results..................................................................................................................... 7 Participation ........................................................................................................................................ 7 Registration and Voting Process ....................................................................................................... 10 Overseas Votersâ€™ Experiences in GE14 ............................................................................................. 24 Moving Forward and New Methods of Voting ................................................................................. 31 Chapter 4: Limitations and Future Analyses ......................................................................................... 43 Appendix: Survey Questions ................................................................................................................. 46 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ......................................................................................................................... 56
Glossary Absent voter
Includes advance and postal voters as defined in the regulations
Advance voting or early A subset of absentee voting in which someone votes in person at a voting designated polling booth earlier than Election Day Global Bersih Data A survey conducted by Global Bersih in 2018 during and immediately Collection Survey after GE14, to document severe operational faults, identify major issues and garner overseas voter feedback EC
Electoral Reform Committee
The use of electronic devices/procedures to vote during an election
13th General Election
14th General Election
15th General Election
Malaysian foreign mission, i.e. a Malaysian embassy, high commission or consulate
Overseas postal voter
OVR Survey Report
Report on the Overseas Voting Reform Survey conducted by Global Bersih in February 2019 to get feedback from overseas Malaysians in order to develop a model of overseas voting that works for all stakeholders, published as Volume 3 of this proposal
Polling Agent, Counting Agent and Barung Agent
Participant Codes Each participant was assigned a unique descriptive code to use instead of names when we quoted their open-ended, qualitative responses. Each code begins with the letter “R” (which stands for “Response”) and comprises the participant’s (i) age, (ii) city of residence, and (iii) years living outside Malaysia, as well as (iv) their occupation, if multiple participants had the same answers for i-iii. If multiple participants had the same answers for i-iv, then (v) a number was added to the end of the code based on the order of their response. The word “Null” was used to indicate a null response to any of these demographic questions, i.e. it was used to indicate that the participant did not answer the question. Example participant codes: R31-40, Adelaide, 11-15
This participant (i) was 31-40 years old, (ii) lived in Adelaide and (iii) had been living outside Malaysia for 11-15 years.
R41-50, Null, 11-15, IT Professional
This participant (i) was 41-50 years old, (ii) left their city of residence blank, (iii) had been living outside Malaysia for 1115 years and (iv) worked as an IT professional.
R21-30, Seoul, ≤ 5, Student (1)
This participant (i) was 31-40 years old, (ii) lived in Seoul, (iii) had been living outside Malaysia for 5 years or less, (iv) was a student and (v) was the first participant to give this set of answers to the demographic questions.
Chapter 1: Background and Overview The purpose of the Overseas Voting Reform (OVR) Survey was to examine the opinions of the Malaysian diaspora on the current overseas voting process and potential new voting methods. The OVR Survey questions were formulated based on the insights gleaned from the following sources: • Global Bersih GE13 Overseas Voting Survey Results • Global Bersih Data Collection on Malaysia’s 14th General Election Overseas Voting Process • The 2018 Electoral Reform Roundtable discussions held in Parliament The survey analysis has been compiled into the OVR Survey Report which will form the basis of the OVR Proposal. The OVR Survey Report will be submitted to the Election Commission (EC) and Electoral Reform Committee (ERC) as an appendix to the OVR Proposal. Altogether, 749 1 Malaysians from 248 cities around the world participated in the OVR Survey. Participants were recruited from social media using the Global Bersih Facebook and Twitter pages. The survey was conducted entirely online (via a Google Form) and was advertised as being about “electoral reform on overseas voting”. The survey link was available from 25th January to 18th February 2019. The deadline was initially set to 9th February, but later extended with the aim of increasing response rates. (We have attached the complete survey questionnaire as an appendix.) “Chapter 2: Summary of Results and Observations” offers a brief snapshot of our most salient results and integrates them into a broader narrative by drawing connections across participants’ responses. Prior to the construction of this narrative, the data was analysed and categorised into the following three thematic areas, which readers may peruse at length in “Chapter 3: Detailed Results”: 1. Participation 2. Registration and Voting Process (for the overseas voting system employed in GE14) 3. Moving Forward and New Methods of Voting (covers different methods of receiving and sending ballots, as well as the introduction of electronic elements, including online voting) For quantitative analysis, we used basic descriptive statistics to obtain frequencies and crosstabulations of participants’ close-ended responses. For qualitative analysis, we adopted the Richards Framework 2 (Richards, 2009, pp. 96-97, as cited in Punch and Oancea, 2014, p. 217) to code participants’ open-ended responses. For questions with few open-ended responses, all of them were analysed, but where there were over 100 responses, analysis was halted once saturation 3 was reached. (See Saunders et al., 2018 for a justification of this practice.)
The raw data was first checked to remove any duplicate responses (i.e. if a participant submitted more than one response, only one entry was retained for analysis).
Punch, K.F. & Oancea, A. (2014). The Analysis of Qualitative Data. In Introduction to Research Methods in Education (pp. 217-261). London, England: SAGE Publications Ltd.
Saunders, B., Sim, J., Kingstone, T., Baker, S., Waterfield, J., Bartlam, B., Burroughs, H., & Jinks, C. (2018). Saturation in qualitative research: exploring its conceptualization and operationalization. Quality & Quantity, 52(4), pp. 1893-1907. 3
Finally, â€œChapter 4: Limitations and Future Analysesâ€? first details the studyâ€™s shortcomings, providing necessary caveats regarding the data and its interpretation, and then discusses potential areas of future research that can further inform or our understanding of attitudes toward voting reforms.
Chapter 2: Summary of Results and Observations Voter registration leading up to GE14 After first obtaining some basic demographic details from participants, we asked them about voter registration. Almost 80% of the 749 participants who responded to the survey were registered to vote. However, only a little over one third were registered as overseas voters for GE14.
Why did so few participants register as overseas voters? The main reasons cited by those who did not register as overseas voters were: (i) their distrust of the system, and how they faced various barriers, e.g.: (ii) being unable to register in time and (iii) not knowing enough about the process. It is therefore unsurprising that participants’ recommendations for changes regarding (overseas) voter registration also revolved around these concerns.
What changes to the current registration process did participants favour? 1. Offering absentee voting to all Malaysians overseas regardless of which country they live in: • Supported by over 95% of the sample 2. Automatic registration for citizens aged 18 years and above: • Supported by over 90% 3. A standardised registration process for overseas voting, as opposed to how the processes were different for GE13 and GE14: • Supported by almost 90% 4. A process in which applicants are allowed to register as overseas voters on an ongoing basis, rather than merely within a small timeframe: • Supported by over 80% 5. Removing a specific restriction 4 preventing some from registering as absent voters • Supported by almost 70% • A large minority of almost 30% felt this restriction is necessary Taken together, these results suggest participants were strongly in favour of removing barriers to (overseas) voter registration.
How can the lack of knowledge about overseas voting be addressed? Many participants suggested voters need to be educated about the registration and voting processes, and to be made aware of any changes to the electoral system. To that end, they stated it was vital for the EC and Malaysian foreign missions (MFMs) to do better at disseminating information. Several participants shared how they were met with a lack of clarity and responsiveness from the EC and MFMs when they tried to find out more in the lead-up to GE14.
Under the EC’s current regulations, Malaysians who have spent fewer than 30 days in Malaysia in the 5 years before the dissolution of Parliament or the State Assembly are not eligible to register as absent voters.
Voting patterns in GE14 Next, we asked participants about their voting behaviours. A little over one third of the sample (or almost half of those who were registered to vote) reported that they voted in GE14.
How many participants voted from overseas?
Only a little over half the participants who voted did so from overseas, while almost half did so in person in Malaysia, i.e. they travelled back specifically to vote or were already in Malaysia at the time.
How did participants vote from overseas? Almost 60% of the participants who voted from overseas had to make considerable efforts to circumvent certain problems with the EC’s service (see below), e.g.: by using ballot carriers who flew back to hand-deliver their postal ballots to the relevant RO offices. Only a little over 40% used the postal voting system provided by the EC.
Why did so few vote from overseas? Participants cited many reasons for this, largely revolving around: 1. Distrust of the overseas voting system • Almost 20% of participants who did not vote from overseas felt this way. • This may have resulted in voter apathy (i.e. thinking that one’s vote does not matter). 2. Problems with the EC’s service • E.g.: About 16% of participants who did not vote from overseas received their postal ballots too late to send back in time to be counted.
Accessibility of Malaysian foreign missions (MFMs) Malaysians overseas were allowed to vote in person at MFMs in GE13 but not in GE14. Thus, prior to exploring new methods of voting, we asked participants how accessible they found MFMs to be.
How far would participants have to travel to reach their closest MFM?
Among the top five most highly represented countries (other than Singapore) in the sample – i.e. Australia, the USA, the UK, Germany and New Zealand – on average, almost 60% of participants would have to travel 200 km or more by car and/or ferry to reach their closest MFM. This suggests absentee voting models cannot solely rely on registration or voting in person at MFMs. Open-ended responses from some of these participants support this conclusion.
How did participants feel about registering or voting in person at MFMs? Some commented that this method should certainly be available as an option. In fact, several even stated they conveniently voted at an MFM in GE13, and were disappointed that they could not do so in GE14. However, others cautioned that alternative options should be offered to those who could not easily travel to their closest MFM.
Specific attitudes toward new voting methods for future elections The final section of the survey focused on new ideas for voting, and larger possible changes to the system.
How did participants feel about electronic voting in the abstract? Almost 90% of the sample supported: (i) considering new methods such as electronic voting, and (ii) introducing more electronic elements into overseas voting in GE15. On the other hand, about 11% thought electronic voting methods should not be considered.
What concerns did participants have about electronic voting?
The primary reason cited was a worry that electronic methods might be open to manipulation. Therefore, there seems to be a fear that an electronic voting system could be misused and would not, in and of itself, reduce opportunities for corruption.
What specific hypothetical voting methods did the survey ask participants to consider? Scenario Scenario Scenario Scenario Scenario Scenario Scenario
A: Receiving PDF ballots by email and printing them once with a secure PIN B: Receiving ballots by post at a registered address C: Posting ballots to the relevant RO office in Malaysia D: Posting ballots to an EC central office in Malaysia E: Sending ballots to MFMs in participants’ countries of residence F: Using e-voting machines at supervised locations G: Unsupervised online voting via personal smart devices
How did participants feel about them? 1. There was relatively high support for using electronic voting methods. • Almost half the participants said they were more likely to vote under Scenarios A and G. The exception to this was the suggestion to use e-voting machines at supervised locations (Scenario F). Only about one third of the sample said they were more likely to vote this way. This may be at least partly due to participants’ concerns around travelling to these supervised locations (e.g.: MFMs). The qualitative responses some participants gave explaining their concerns support this inference. 2. There was considerably less support for using the Malaysian postal voting system. • Only 17-30% of participants said they were more likely to vote under Scenarios B, C and D, i.e. the voting methods that relied on Pos Malaysia to return ballots. Interestingly, there was more support for posting ballots to MFMs in participants’ countries of residence (Scenario E); almost half the participants said they were more likely to vote this way. This suggests participants perhaps distrusted the Malaysian postal voting system in particular. The qualitative responses some participants gave explaining their concerns support this inference. 3. Participants largely did not support posting ballots to their relevant RO office in Malaysia. • Almost half the participants indicated they were less likely to vote this way (Scenario C). • Participants also expressed the highest number of concerns regarding this method. 4. Participants had mixed feelings about some of the new voting methods. • Responses to Scenarios B, D and F were somewhat divided among “more likely”, “just as likely” and “less likely” to vote.
How can we understand participants’ seemingly discrepant attitudes toward electronic voting? When participants were asked about electronic voting in the abstract, they overwhelmingly (almost 90%) supported the suggestion, with only about 12% expressing any concerns. However, when asked about concrete suggestions involving electronic elements (i.e. Scenarios A , F and G), only 33-45% said they were more likely to vote using these methods, while 27-34% expressed concerns about them.
This apparent discrepancy could be due to several reasons, such as differences in how the questions were worded and the level of specificity of the electronic voting methods proposed. Nevertheless, overall, a sizeable minority of participants evidently have concerns about electronic voting (somewhere between 12-34%, depending on the specifics of the method). Yet, a comfortable majority have positive attitudes toward the EC at least considering electronic voting for future elections, and the abstract possibility of including electronic voting elements in GE15.
General attitudes about changes to the overseas voting system To understand participants’ overall opinions about different changes to the voting system, they were asked which of the following suggestions 5 would likely be improvements. i. ii. iii. iv. v. vi. vii. viii. ix. x.
Automatic voter registration Ongoing, standardised registration for overseas voting Lowering the voting age to 18 years Extending the campaign period Centralised management for overseas voting handled by the EC Electronic voter registration Electronic voting Conducting an e-voting pilot project for Malaysians living overseas Amending the rules to include all overseas voters as absent voters Removing unnecessary requirements and limitations in the overseas voting process
How did participants feel about these suggestions? Across the board, most participants thought all the above were likely improvements. Still, there was some diversity of perspectives in evaluating each suggestion: 1. Suggestions i, ii, v, vi, ix and x: • Between 70-80% felt these would likely be improvements to the existing system. 2. Suggestions vii and viii: • Between 60-70% felt these were likely improvements. 3. Suggestions iii and iv: • Only a little over half the participants felt these were likely improvements.
What accounts for this diversity of perspectives? It is unclear. We do not know participants’ criteria for what constitutes an improvement to the current system, or what constitutes unnecessary requirements and limitations in their minds.
Confidence in the EC’s ability to improve the overseas voting process Almost three quarters of the participants reported feeling confident that the EC can improve the overseas voting process moving forward.
Participants had been exposed to all these suggestions in previous questions within the survey, and had already offered opinions in more detail on each suggestion individually. This question aimed to assess participants’ overall opinions on all these suggestions at once.
Chapter 3: Detailed Results Participation In total, there were 749 participants who completed the survey.
Age distribution Most participants were of working age, between 21 and 60 years. The largest age group was 31-40 year-olds. Figure 1
Countries represented The region with the most participants was Europe, but Australia, the USA, the UK, Singapore, Germany and New Zealand were the top 6 single countries represented. Figure 2
Table 1: Participants residing in Europe
Country UK Germany Netherlands Switzerland Czech Republic Ireland Italy France Belgium Finland Norway Austria Hungary Luxembourg Spain Sweden Turkey Total
Table 2: Participants residing in Southeast Asia
No. of Participants 97 52 19 17 12 10 7 7 3 3 2 1 1 1 1 1 1 235
Country Singapore Malaysia Indonesia Thailand Philippines Vietnam Cambodia Brunei Laos Myanmar Papua New Guinea Total
Table 3: Participants residing in Oceania
Country Australia New Zealand Total
Table 4: Participants residing in North America
No. of Participants 166 43 209
Country USA Canada Mexico Total
Table 5: Participants residing in Northeast Asia
Country Hong Kong Mainland China Japan Taiwan South Korea Total
No. of Participants 105 17 1 123
Table 6: Participants residing in the Middle East
No. of Participants 18 16 13 9 7 63
UAE Qatar Saudi Arabia Bahrain Oman Total
No. of Participants 10 3 3 1 1 18
Table 8: Participants residing in Africa
Table 7: Participants residing in South Asia
Country India Maldives Nepal Total
No. of Participants 55 10 6 6 3 3 2 1 1 1 1 89
No. of Participants 2 1 1 4
Country Nigeria South Africa Total
No. of Participants 1 1 2
Globally, the top cities represented were Melbourne, Singapore, London, Auckland, Sydney, Perth, Adelaide, Hong Kong, Prague, New York City and Geneva. These last two were tied for tenth place. Figure 3
Participantsâ€™ time living abroad The majority of participants had been living outside of Malaysia for ten years or less. Figure 4
Registration and Voting Process Participants were asked: “Are you a registered voter (i.e. is your name registered on the Daftar Pemilih/Electoral Roll)?” “Where did you register to vote (i.e. to get onto the Daftar Pemilih/Electoral Roll)?” Almost 80% of all participants were registered to vote. And the age group with the highest voter registration rate was the 31-40-years-olds; 87.4% of participants from this age group were registered. Figure 5
Distances of overseas voters from Malaysian foreign missions (MFMs) To gauge the practicality of overseas voting in person at MFMs, participants were asked: “How far away is the closest Malaysian foreign mission (i.e. Malaysian embassy, high commission or consulate)?” To quantify how far participants’ cities of residence were to their closest MFM, we have set aside the original measure of time (hours) from the answer options in the survey and opted instead to use driving distance (kilometres). The questionnaire did not specify any mode of transport, so neither did participants’ responses. Therefore, when attempting to analyse the data, it was not possible to fairly compare their responses (e.g.: an hour’s journey by car cannot be compared to an hour’s journey by plane). For this analysis, the top 5 countries (other than Singapore) with the most responses – i.e. Australia, the USA, the UK, Germany and New Zealand – have been singled out because of the time-consuming nature and the diminishing returns of performing this analysis on all 148 cities represented in this survey regardless of how few participants live there. Singapore was excluded from the analysis below as it is a small city-state. Hence, distance would not be a logistical issue as it is in the other countries. For each of the 5 top countries, the driving distance data was obtained from Google Maps by checking the shortest driving distance from the centre of each city of residence to the address of the Malaysian foreign mission closest to that city centre. Occasionally, driving routes also included ferry journeys (e.g.: from Hobart to the Malaysian foreign mission in Melbourne, Australia). Furthermore, because participants residing in a city could live closer or further away from the city centre, the distance data was grouped together into ranges. Figure 7: Australia: Malaysian foreign missions (MFMs) in Canberra, Melbourne, and Perth
Figure 9: The USA: Malaysian foreign missions (MFMs) in Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York City
Figure 11: The UK: Malaysian foreign mission (MFM) in London
Figure 13: Germany: Malaysian foreign mission (MFM) in Berlin
Figure 15: New Zealand: Malaysian foreign mission (MFM) in Wellington
These results (in Figures 7-16) suggest that a sizeable portion of participants (35.0% in Australia, 71.4% in the USA, 21.7% in the UK, 75.0% in Germany and 88.3% in New Zealand) would find it infeasible to travel to their closest MFM since they would have to drive 200 km or more to do so. Several participants even indicated via free-text comments that their closest Malaysian foreign mission is prohibitively far away from where they live. For example, participant R41-50, Adelaide, 6-10 pointed out that they would have to travel “1-2 hours’ flight or 8-9 hours’ drive one way”. Two other participants stated that their closest MFM is in a different country.
Registration criteria and process Participants were asked: â€œIf everyone aged 18 years and above is automatically registered on the electoral roll, will this motivate you to vote?â€? The overwhelming majority of participants indicated that automatic registration for citizens aged 18 years and above would motivate them to vote. Interestingly, this was true of all age groups. Figure 17
It should be noted that this question combines two changes to the current electoral laws and system: lowering the voting age to 18 years and implementing automatic voter registration when citizens reach the voting age.
Participants were also asked: â€œDid you register to vote from overseas (i.e. postal vote using Borang 1B) in GE14?â€? Fewer than half of the participants had filed Borang 1B applications to register as overseas voters. Younger adults in the 21-30- and 31-40-year-old age groups were the most likely to be registered for overseas voting at 41.7% and 44.6% of these groups respectively. Figure 19
Participants who did not register as overseas voters cited many reasons, most notably distrust of the system. 65.7% of participants selected only one of the given responses in Figure 21. However, others selected multiple responses and/or further described their own experiences. Figure 21
Note: The percentages in Figure 21 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (719). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the total number of relevant participants (472) because many participants selected more than one option.
Trust in the overseas voting system was negatively impacted by personal experiences as well as hearsay. “Many stories about even if I tried to register, the offices overseas would delay the sending of the forms back to KL.” by R31-40, Cleveland, 6-10
“I tried to vote in Australia in 2004 when i was a student and in 2008 when i was working in USA, both times the embassy basically discourage me to vote.” by R31-40, Bandung, ≤ 5
“Was informed I previously voted, even though I never registered.” by R41-50, Chelmsford, 16-20
Several participants felt that communication by the EC and Malaysian foreign missions needs to be improved. A general lack of knowledge about the requirements and/or the process to register for overseas voting was also apparent from participants’ responses. And several participants complained that MFM staff could not or would not provide clear information.
“Enquiries were not entertained by phone calls.... Poor communication if EC offered overseas voting in Thailand ...yes, No, maybe answers.” by R61-70, Bangkok, 11-15
“Malaysian HC in Dublin were not helpful and did not even responded to my queries on overseas voter registration.” by R61-70, Null, 31-35
“Confusion since non-govt never were allowed to vote overseas previously. And published rules made it impractical since the Malaysian mission is only in New York/DC. Early postal voting is very common in USA though.” by R41-50, Null, 11-15, IT Professional
Problems with the EC’s service were also a major factor in some cases of participants not registering as absent voters. Since some participants were not aware of overseas voting until after the election was announced, they were not able to register for it. Even those who had registered earlier found that their applications were still being processed, or that they did not receive their ballots. “Registered, but wasn’t able to submit it as I had missed the dissolution of Parliament announcement. The ‘window’ for submissions was very small.” by R61-70, London, > 50
“applied Borang 1B on 30 January 2018, till today “borang sedang diproses”“ by R41-50, London, 21-25, Chartered Accountant
“Register but the ballot was not sent to me” by R31-40, Taipei, 11-15
Some participants (38) simply circumvented these issues by deciding they would travel back to Malaysia to vote, especially those who lived in neighbouring countries such as Singapore where overseas voting was not offered. Nevertheless, time and cost constraints also made this impractical for some. Below is a summary of reasons from free-text responses as to why participants did not register to vote from overseas. (The number of responses containing each sub-theme are given in parentheses.)
Table 9: Summary of free-text responses concerning reasons why participants did not register to vote from overseas
Voted in Malaysia
Trust deficit in overseas voting system
EC and Malaysian foreign missions need to improve communication
EC needs to improve service
- Prefer voting in person in Malaysia (2) - Lived in, still live in, or was already in Malaysia (11) - Trust deficit in overseas voting system (7) - Ineligible for overseas voting (3) - Voted in Malaysia; no further explanation (15)
- Perceptions of electoral fraud and disenfranchisement (4) - First-hand experiences of electoral fraud and disenfranchisement (3) - EC and Malaysian foreign missions need to improve communication and service (6)
- Overseas voter application period and processing time (5) - Failure to send ballots (1) - Tediousness and cost of overseas voter applications by post (2)
- Negligence in response to enquiries (3) - Need for timely information dissemination (2) - Clarity of communication (1) - Communicating to: (i) eliminate knowledge gaps, (ii) combat misconceptions, and (iii) regain trust (6)
Malaysian foreign missions prohibitively far away (3) Polling day on a weekday (1) Ethical objections against overseas voting (2) Happened to be travelling during GE14 (1) Never voted before (1) - Uncategorised (5)
Moreover, participants were asked: “Is this requirement set by the EC for Malaysians overseas to qualify for overseas postal voting necessary? According to the EC, overseas Malaysians must have been in Malaysia or have returned to Malaysia for not fewer than 30 days in the 5 years before the dissolution of Parliament or the State Assembly.” “For GE14, overseas voting was not offered to Malaysians residing in southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei or Kalimantan province, Indonesia. Do you think that overseas voting should be offered to all Malaysians overseas, regardless of where they are?” Figure 22
While most participants felt the EC’s requirement for length of stay in Malaysia was unnecessary, a sizeable minority saw some need for it. On the other hand, an overwhelming majority felt overseas voting should be offered to overseas Malaysians regardless of where they are.
In addition, participants were asked: “During GE13 and GE14, different methods were used for the overseas voter registration process. Do you think that a standardised registration process for overseas voters will motivate you to take part and vote?” “During GE14, registration for overseas postal voting was available for 72 days. Do you think an ongoing registration process for overseas voters (until the dissolution of Parliament) will motivate you to take part and vote?” Most participants agreed that standardising the overseas voter registration process and allowing registration on an ongoing basis would motivate them to vote. Figure 23
Participants were also asked for any suggestions on how the registration process for overseas voters could be improved (free-text responses). Many people had strong feelings about this, with 420 of the 749 offering open-ended comments. The main themes were as follows: (A) Communication of information on the process must be improved. A clear entry point into the registration process is needed. The EC should have an easily accessible webpage dedicated to the overseas voting process with clear instructions and answers to FAQs, including in English. The Foreign Ministry and individual MFM webpages should link to this as well as having specific instructions for overseas voting (if applicable). “Consistent and clear instructions from one authoritative and formal source” by R21-30, Null, ≤ 5
“I think it’s the lack of announcement through various channels that put us in the dark. More visibility in putting out the message please.” by R31-40, Singapore, 6-10, Digital Marketing
“Include clear instructions on the next steps to complete the voting process. My forms were incomplete. Include pertinent addresses on SPR’s website specifically for overseas postal voters.” by R31-40, Muscat, 11-15
“• Having consolidated source of information at designated website portal. • Setting up hotline service to answer questions from voters. • Having organized campaign on voter registration education and instructions.” by R41-50, Pasadena, 16-20
(B) The registration process should be simplified and automated as much as possible. Many agreed that all citizens aged 18 years and above should be automatically registered. In addition, overseas voter status could be automatically applied when a person registers themselves at an MFM. Moreover, some suggested overseas voter registration should only be required once in a lifetime, rather than requiring a new application before each election. Also, others highlighted the need to update one’s status easily when moving to a new address, and suggested this could be done online. Furthermore, although the EC allowed Borang 1B applications to be submitted by email for GE14, applicants first had to print a hard copy of a PDF of the form, fill it in by hand, and scan it to a soft copy, which EC staff at the receiving end then had to process manually. This motivated suggestions to allow online registration. In particular, there was a recommendation to learn from the UK model of online registration. However, some participants pointed out that overseas voter registration via post may still be needed, e.g.: for those without access to technology. “If everyone is automatically registered once they have turned 18, it would save a lot of trouble and encourage more voters.” by R21-30, Karlsruhe, ≤ 5
“automatic overseas voting registration with the issuance of a long term foreign visa” by R31-40, Lausanne, ≤ 5
“Allow registration to last a lifetime till otherwise changed.” by R31-40, Singapore, 11-15, Partner 22
“Those who are eligible voters who have officially registered with the Malaysian Embassy at respective country, should be automatically given a chance to vote without new registration.” by R21-30, Hannover, ≤ 5
“Easier method to update overseas address for voting registration.” by R21-30, Vancouver, 6-10
“Make registration available online and get rid of those physical forms that are subject to tampering.” by R41-50, Melbourne, 6-10, SAP Consultant
“Online form filling instead of having to edit pdf/print and scan completed form” by R21-30, Seoul, ≤ 5, Student (1)
“A simple to follow online registration system modelled on that used for voter registration in the UK would be ideal.” by R21-30, Manchester, 6-10
(C) The processing of overseas voter applications needs to improve. As noted in Table 9, some participants were disenfranchised due to long processing delays. Others discovered only at a later date that they were successfully registered as overseas voters, but were unsure of their status close to GE14. Several participants therefore suggested that the EC should send applicants confirmation of receipt and confirmation of successful application. Other suggestions included making the overseas voting process more secure by improving identification security even at the registration stage; using IC matching, signature matching and biometrics to curb phantom voting. In addition, adaptability to different registration scenarios – e.g.: making appropriate allowances for elderly voters – would help smooth the registration process. “Signature and date of birth on postal voting statement must be checked independently against my application to prevent fraud. increase penalty for any offence for completing a postal vote that is not your own, and or to influence voters. Voters over 70 years may have problems and unable to sign their form, or are unable to sign it in a consistent way. Please make special provisions. Older people can make mistakes...arrange for replacement.” by R71-80, Geneva, 21-25, Retired (1)
Overseas Votersâ€™ Experiences in GE14 Most participants (from all age groups) did not vote from overseas in GE14. And out of those who did, the majority handed their ballots to another individual who flew them back to Malaysia (ballot carrier). Figure 24
Participants who did not vote from overseas were asked about their reasons. Multiple answers were accepted for this question including free text. While “Didn’t register to vote” was the most frequently chosen reason overall, participants in the 21-30 age group gave “Flew back to Malaysia to vote” as the top reason. Figure 26
Note: The percentages in Figure 26 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (718). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the total number of relevant participants (603) because many participants selected more than one option.
Open-ended responses from participants who did not vote reiterated a lack of trust in the overseas voting system, as well as a lack of information on the process. “Didn’t register for overseas vote since thought it was a joke.” by R41-50, Null, 11-15, IT Professional
“Voted in Malaysia Embassy London for GE13. Thought it was the same process and missed deadline to submit form 1B.” by R41-50, London, 16-20, Student
Many participants who had registered or attempted to register as overseas voters encountered delays in various stages of the process. Some received a ballot only a few days before the election, which would have made it impossible to send the ballot back by regular post, and private courier services would have incurred extremely high fees. Others encountered problems with their overseas voter status being unclear. “Registered as a voter 3 days late, on 3 Jan 2018, as EC updates their voter database quarterly and only people who registered by 31 Dec 2017 could vote” by R21-30, Berkeley, ≤ 5, Student (1)
“SPR was still processing my overseas postal application even though i applied on 30 Jan 2018 and received email confirmation that they received my form.” by R41-50, London, 21-25, Chartered Accountant
“I got the parcel only 2 days before the election), the postal charge for immediate delivery was in hundreds as in extremely expensive.” by R21-30, Bandung, ≤ 5
“My application, which fully complied with the requirements, was thrown out and I was not allowed to vote from overseas.” by R21-30, London, ≤ 5, Engineer
“System showed my voting station was back home but when I reached the voting center, they said I was ‘successfully’ registered as postal voter” R21-30, Shanghai, ≤ 5, Graduate
A large number of participants travelled home to Malaysia to vote in person (106 out of 718 responses). Others indicated that they would have preferred to travel but were unable due to time and cost constraints. “Did not trust system so planned to go home to vote but the short announcement and mid week made it impossible to get time off.” by R31-40, Hong Kong, 6-10, Marketing Director
Some were ineligible due to EC policy regarding their country of residence. “I couldn’t travel back to Msia and overseas posting was not offered to people residing in Singapore.” by R41-50, Singapore, 6-10, Homemaker (1)
A very small minority (3 participants) chose to not vote as they had ethical objections to overseas voting. “I don’t think I should have a say on a representative since I do not live there (my personal view, I have no issues with others voting from overseas).” by R41-50, Brisbane, 16-20
“Citizens who had been out of Malaysia for an extended length of time should not vote. Why should those who do not live or intend to live in Malaysia have a say in the future of Malaysia.” by R51-60, Melbourne, 26-30
Changes to the existing overseas voting process Although many factors may affect postal voting, time constraints were perceived to be one of the most prominent problems. Therefore, participants were asked specifically: “If enough time is given for voters to receive and send their ballots to Malaysia by post, would you be willing to trust the postal voting system used during GE14?”
Participants were also asked: “What other changes would you like to see to the existing postal voting system, which might help you change your mind?” Figure 29
Note: The percentages in Figure 29 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (3,347). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the total number of participants (749) because many participants selected more than one option.
Participants offered many other suggestions to improve the existing postal voting system. Several suggested that voting and/or counting ballots should be done at the respective Malaysian foreign missions (MFMs) in each country. Another solution proposed was to send postal ballots to the local MFMs instead of having to send them all the way back to one’s home constituency in Malaysia. “Allow overseas voters to vote in embassies or foreign mission offices, or post the votes to the offices stated above when voters are residing in a far location” by R21-30, Munich, 6-10 28
“send (postal or hand delivery) marked ballots to closest foreign mission who would then send the ballots to Malaysia via secure and confidential diplomatic courier, instead of each voter sending to their voting station via commercial courier” by R31-40, Lausanne, ≤ 5
“Would prefer the counting is done in the Malaysian foreign mission in each of the foreign country and monitored by an independent person or organisation.” by R41-50, Bristol, 11-15, Accountant
The importance of having party and independent election observers was also highlighted. “review the process of establishing local and international Election Observers” by R71-80, Geneva, 21-25, Retired (1)
“…representatives from all contending parties should be involved in the counting process to ensure fairness” by R41-50, Pasadena, 16-20
Several participants raised security and integrity concerns: “Have a tamper proof system to collect and transport the marked ballots from overseas back to Malaysia on time” by R61-70, Null, 31-35
“We people need to trust the people in EC and it’s work before we trust the voting system. Till now I still don’t trust the EC yet.” by R21-30, Bandung, ≤ 5
One participant commented that the overseas postal voting process could be also made more secure by improving identification security (at both the registration and actual voting stages); using IC matching, signature matching, and biometrics to curb phantom voting. “Signature and date of birth on postal voting statement must be checked independently against my application to prevent fraud. increase penalty for any offence for completing a postal vote that is not your own, and or to influence voters.” by R71-80, Geneva, 21-25, Retired (1)
Additional measures could be implemented to facilitate postal voting, including taking the time factor into account. “Paid return postage for returning the ballots. Even if it is to the residing country’s closest embassy to reduce high postal expenses.” by R21-30, London, 6-10
“Appoint a representative (possibly SPR-if it is neutral) to carry the ballot back to Malaysia” by R31-40, Canberra, 6-10
“Factor in a lot more time for getting the ballot papers to postal voters and for postal voters to send them back by regular registered mail (not express courier). Allow Malaysian embassies or foreign missions to collect postal votes for bulk sending back to Malaysia” by R41-50, Null, 6-10, Manager
Moving Forward and New Methods of Voting Participants were asked about more radical changes to overseas voting procedures and potential concerns about security, privacy, and transparency that may come with these changes. “Do you think the EC should consider new methods such as electronic voting in order to improve the overseas voting process?” “Would you vote in GE15 if the EC introduces more electronic elements to the overseas voting process, such as electronic ballots, electronic voting, and electronic counting?” Figure 30
Participants who answered “no” to electronic voting had various reasons for doing so. Figure 31
Note: The percentages in Figure 31 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (227). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the relevant number of participants (90) because many participants selected more than one option.
Other concerns expressed in free-text responses reflected the general lack of public confidence in the voting system. Participants believed that any electronic voting system needed to be carefully developed to ensure its security. Some cautioned that there is currently not enough knowledge or experience about using electronic voting systems, so perhaps a pilot program should be initiated first before rushing to implement a new system. They commented that such a system needs to be tested for robustness and verified by a neutral third party. In general, participants voiced concerns around the implementation of electronic methods. One expressed the opinion that the use of physical ballot papers was generally better, and another mentioned a preference for physical copies of important documents. Moreover, participants were presented with several scenarios for new voting methods, comprising 2 processes for receiving postal ballots, 3 processes for returning postal ballots, and 2 methods of electronic voting. Participants were asked to indicate if they would be more likely, just as likely, or less likely to vote under each of the following scenarios: “Scenario A: To receive your ballot papers via email in a PDF for you to print out once using a secure PIN instead of receiving them by post” “Scenario B: To receive your ballot papers by post at the address that you have registered in the Borang 1B as required by the EC for GE15” “Scenario C: To return your marked ballots by post to the Returning Officer of your constituency in Malaysia; the ballots will be counted there at the end of the polling day (as it was done in GE14)” “Scenario D: To return your marked ballots by post to a central Election Commission office in Malaysia that handles overseas postal votes; the marked ballots will be counted at the central office under observation at the end of the polling day” “Scenario E: To return your marked ballots by post or in person to the Malaysian Foreign Mission in your country of residence and the ballots will be counted at the Malaysian Foreign Mission at the end of the polling day under the same observation possibilities as any other polling station in Malaysia; the final results will be forwarded to the EC” “Scenario F: Voting is done using an electronic voting machine at a supervised location such as a Malaysian foreign mission or mobile voting station. The machine records the individual votes, totals the final vote count and forwards it to the EC at the end of the polling day.” “Scenario G: Voting is done online (via personal laptops, mobile phones, etc.) and the information is saved to a central EC server. The votes are digitally secured and separated from the voters’ personal details in the server. Once the polling period ends, the votes are calculated electronically to obtain the results.”
Some participants (about 17, on average) who expressed concerns about these scenarios nevertheless indicated that they would still be “just as likely” or “more likely” to vote. Figure 33
Participants expressed a variety of concerns about the proposed new voting methods. They were able to select from a list of potential concerns as well as enter free-text responses, as summarised below. Figure 34: Scenario A: Receive a PDF of ballots via email and print it once using secure PIN
Note: The percentages in Figure 34 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (489). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the number of relevant participants (205) because many participants selected more than one option.
Participantsâ€™ other concerns were about security and errors that may occur through this method of voting. Their concerns were twofold: technical difficulties that could compromise someoneâ€™s vote, such as printing problems, and also larger corruption problems, such as the possibility of printing multiple ballots. Participants felt that this voting method needed to be secured to prevent abuse.
Figure 35: Scenario B: Receive ballots by post at registered address
Note: The percentages in Figure 35 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (509). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the number of relevant participants (244) because many participants selected more than one option.
Participantsâ€™ other concerns revolved around the postal service itself. Participants provided potential scenarios that could prevent a person from voting, such as ballots arriving late or being delivered to the wrong address. There was little trust in the postage system unless sufficient time was given for the ballots to arrive, be marked, and then mailed back to Malaysia. While some concerns were directly tied to manipulation, such as ballots not reaching their constituency because the postal votes were compromised during transit, other concerns were more about accidents such as ballots getting lost in the mail.
Figure 36: Scenario C: Post ballots to Returning Officer of relevant constituency in Malaysia
Note: The percentages in Figure 36 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (835). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the number of relevant participants (349) because many participants selected more than one option.
Participantsâ€™ other concerns revolved around a general distrust of the postal voting system. Participants saw many flaws in the postal voting procedure that was vulnerable to manipulation and errors. This included practical concerns about insufficient time and the cost of postage falling on the voter. There was an inclination to try other voting methods to improve or even replace the postal voting system altogether.
Figure 37: Scenario D: Post ballots to EC central office in Malaysia
Note: The percentages in Figure 37 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (403). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the number of relevant participants (208) because many participants selected more than one option.
Participantsâ€™ other concerns were about their lack of trust in the postal voting system. They had concerns about how the postal service could compromise their vote. Most participants were worried about their votes being manipulated. Further, they recognised the potential logistical constraints of this method, such as insufficient time for the voter to receive and return their ballot, as well as the cost of the postage falling on the voter - whom they thought should not have to bear this additional burden.
Figure 38: Scenario E: Send ballots to Malaysian foreign mission in country of residence
Note: The percentages in Figure 38 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (310). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the number of relevant participants (169) because many participants selected more than one option.
Participantsâ€™ other concerns revolved around the logistics of travelling to the Malaysian foreign mission(s) in their countries of residence and how their votes would be handled there. Participants expressed distrust in how transparent this method would be, and therefore the needed to have independent observers overseas during ballot-counting. As for the postal option, there were concerns about insufficient time and distrust of the postal voting system. One participant (R31-40, London, 6-10) who seemed to be familiar with election monitoring described in detail the processes that should be in place for vote counting at MFM: â€œFor the security of Overseas Votes, the voting should be done at the Malaysian embassies with PACA. And all votes MUST be counted immediately at the venue after voting hours. The delivery of votes arranged by embassy/individual effort cannot not be guaranteed at every stage, safe from alteration or being swapped. Even if the votes are to be couriered directly to a pondok, no one can guarantee that the votes will not be tampered by the PIC as there are no PACABA present at these addresses. Imagine the horror of discovering the postal votes that reached the respective addresses last GE (by the tireless effort of amazing racers) became useless, never made it to be counted because the Pegawai was dishonest/bribed. The one & only way to ensure Overseas Votes matter is to have them casted and counted at embassies with PACA. Postal Voting are unreliable & unsafe when mailed to an address - it leaves many opportunities for interference.â€?
Figure 39: Scenario F: Use e-voting machines at supervised locations
Note: The percentages in Figure 39 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (456). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the number of relevant participants (224) because many participants selected more than one option.
Participants’ other concerns primarily focused on the logistics of travelling to the supervised location to vote. Many remarked that the journey could be costly, cumbersome, and inaccessible for some people. They therefore recognised how geographical and physical boundaries could play a role in reducing voter turnout. Secondly, participants had security concerns about how the e-voting machines would be supervised to prevent hacking, with 1 participant (R31-40, Melbourne, 11-15, Environment Practitioner) even claiming there is a body of evidence suggesting such machines are prone to tampering. Finally, there were some miscellaneous concerns about voter anonymity, space constraints at the Malaysian foreign missions, and preferences for a more accessible online method.
Figure 40: Scenario G: Unsupervised online voting on personal smart devices
Note: The percentages in Figure 40 reflect the number of responses that selected a specific option, divided by the total number of responses received (663). The percentage for each option was not obtained via dividing by the number of relevant participants (251) because many participants selected more than one option.
Participants’ other concerns largely centred on security and a need for assurances that the system would not be tampered with. In line with this, participants thought the technology used needed to be well-developed and expertly managed. In particular, there was a recognition that the use of an online voting method opened up new ways to compromise data privacy. Some therefore thought that the use of neutral third parties could help assure the integrity of the system, but also cautioned that there should be no international interference in the election.
Additionally, participants were asked: “Which of these do you think would be improvements on the existing overseas voting system? If you are unsure about the existing system, please choose “Likely” for the first option and disregard the rest.” 113 participants (15.1%) indicated that they did not know enough about the existing system to comment on whether or not the suggested changes would be improvements.
Participants were also asked: â€œAre you confident that the EC will be able to offer an improved overseas voting process for GE15?â€? Most participants were confident that overseas voting could be improved by GE15 and this was high across all age groups. Figure 42
Finally, participants were asked if they had any further (open-ended) suggestions: â€œWhat other changes do you want to see to the overseas voting process?â€? Table 10: Summary of improvements that participants wished to see in the overseas voting process
General process recommendations
Reform the registration process
Improve the voting process
Remove barriers to voting
Improve the EC
Involve Malaysian foreign missions (MFMs)
- Transparency - Security - Efficiency - Standardisation
- Remove or reduce current voting restriction - Change minimum voting age to 18 years - Extend campaign period to allow sufficient time for postal voting - Implement mandatory voting
Promote voter education
- Improve allocation of public resources to disseminate information - Provide clear guidelines on registration and voting - Communicate with overseas voters
- Implement automatic registration - Introduce electronic registration system - Promote early registration
Empowerment Accountability Impartiality Proactivity - Professionalism
Encourage independent observers for overseas voting
- Observers from the various political parties - Promote efforts such as PACABA, Pemerhati and Pemantau
- Implement voter verification - Ensure voter and ballot security
- Oversee voting process - Help disseminate information on voting - Remain non-partisan - Be transparent
Participants’ responses to this question ranged from the quite abstract to the highly concrete. On the abstract end of the spectrum, participants made general recommendations to improve voting and elections overall. These tended to have four key underlying principles: (i) increasing transparency, (ii) ensuring security, (iii) maximising efficiency (to reduce the burden on the voter), and (iv) standardising processes to prevent irregularities. A fifth abstract strain of responses stressed the need to make the EC a fairer organisation, suggesting participants view it as vital to achieving a more just voting process. Thus, some participants mentioned that the EC needs to win back Malaysians’ trust after the corruption and irregularities witnessed in past elections. More concretely, participants shared ideas for reforming the registration and voting processes. Some elaborated on the benefits of electronic voting. “Electronic voting reduces wastes - no physical logistics nightmare, and the less number of humans involved, the more trustworthy the system and process. [...]Many [short-term overseas voters] are on job, and can’t just travel back to vote. Electronic voting solves that issue. [...] There is no added advantage of printing ballot papers, post them, then have the voter returned. Its cumbersome, timeconsuming, insecure, and open to fraud and dispute. Just do electronically. Digital key security is much more secure. As a compromise, have electronic voting, and only 1 central location in EC to print the papers as verification and archive.” by R41-50, Null, 11-15, IT Professional
At the same time, participants acknowledged that extensive security vetting needs to be conducted before implementing electronic voting practices to prevent the same problems from occurring again. “If electronic voting were to be implemented, some cutting edge technology that is secure, transparent and anonymous should be implemented. E.g. blockchain, audit trail, etc. where records are public, but anonymized. This way, we can minimize manipulation and improve trust towards the EC.” by R31-40, Belvaux, 6-10
Meanwhile, others drew on their own prior experiences to offer ideas for improving the overseas voter registration process. “Ease of changing overseas voter registration address. I was not able to update my address for GE14 though I was registered and voted overseas for GE13”. by R21-30, Vancouver, 6-10
Moreover, participants raised the issue of removing barriers to voting, reflecting their frustration with current regulations they saw as unfairly restricting overseas voters. A key barrier was the time constraints linked to postal voting, so many participants wanted a longer election campaign period to allow voters enough time to receive and send back their postal ballots. There were also additional legal barriers identified.
“Abolish the necessity of Malaysian witness as it is too difficult to find a Malaysian in the overseas” by R41-50, Nara, 16-20
“All Malaysians should be able to vote overseas irrespective of which country they are residing in.” by R31-40, Perth, 21-25
Another important theme in some responses was to involve Malaysian foreign missions (MFMs) in the overseas voting process in a transparent and independent manner. Some saw mandatory registration at MFMs and mandatory voting as steps forward in securing the voting rights of Malaysians residing overseas. “...Clarity and guidance from foreign missions overseas on method of voting, streamlined process of registration, make it mandatory for overseas voters to register (and deregister) at the foreign mission.” by R41-50, London, 11-15
In line with this, participants suggested more opportunities for independent observation for overseas voting. This includes observers from multiple political parties, as well as grassroots/NGO-run efforts such as PACABA, Pemerhati, and Pemantau. Taken together, participants recommended more independent oversight in the overseas voting process. Finally, many participants also pushed for increasing voter education amongst Malaysians oversees. There was a sense that Malaysians abroad needed more guidance and clear information about voting processes to encourage voter participation. Again, the role of MFMs, the EC, and NGOs were seen as key in the education process. “Proactive EC and Foreign Missions, GB as official observers, EC-GB joint training/education sessions for OV.” by R61-70, Geneva, 36-40
“Embassy and EC should conduct awareness campaign once they have sorted out the improvement and standardisation of the voting system.” by R21-30, Hannover, ≤ 5
Participants (R21-30, Wellington, 16-20; R21-30, Columbus, 6-10; and R21-30, Bangkok, 6-10 respectively) also expressed communication concerns such as how to distribute relevant information, “…at least a year before the next GE is due to be called to allow for it to be disseminated,” and having a, “more user friendly and professional SPR website that is maintained regularly,” as well as providing, “…simple infographics to know the steps on how to vote.” 42
Chapter 4: Limitations and Future Analyses Limitations of the Study This study has been undertaken by layperson volunteers under very tight time constraints and no budget. Hence, we could not conduct a comprehensive literature review prior to designing the current survey, administering it, analysing the data gathered, or writing this report. This has likely led to limitations in the rigour and robustness of this study. (As mentioned in Chapter 1, the Global Bersih GE13 Overseas Voting Survey Results, Global Bersih’s Data Collection on the GE14 Overseas Voting Process and the 2018 Electoral Reform Roundtable discussions held in the Malaysian Parliament were the three sources we reviewed when planning this study.) Ideally, we would have liked to review relevant academic literature from Malaysia and elsewhere on absentee voting, as well as any reports or findings by election commissions, other relevant government agencies and election watchdogs from other countries, to learn what studies have already been done in this area, and better understand the challenges faced worldwide when designing absentee voting policies. Unfortunately, we only had access to a convenience sample, so the responses to the survey may not be representative of the Malaysian diaspora writ large. In particular, most participants were between 31-50 years old, and a large number of participants resided in Europe and Oceania. We do not currently have information as to how closely or not this reflects the actual distribution of overseas Malaysians. We therefore should be careful in making generalisations about the results as the findings may be less applicable to some Malaysians abroad. Since we had relatively few participants who were younger than 30 or older than 50, and also few participants who were living in Africa, South Asia, or the Middle East, the data may not be representative of these groups’ experiences and opinions. In addition, some answers were especially difficult or tricky to interpret. For example, for questions considering new voting methods, some participants indicated that they were “just as likely to vote” or “more likely to vote” using a given voting method. However, in the follow-up questions, these same participants expressed concerns about the voting method proposed. This pattern of response suggests that even though participants stated that they will vote using a new voting method, they still had a range of concerns about it. Further, participants sometimes failed to comply with instructions when answering questions. For instance, some multiple-choice questions requested participants to select a single answer, but several participants selected multiple answers. This issue applies to the questions in which participants were presented with multiple voting scenarios and asked to select their top concern regarding each voting scenario. During the data analysis stage, we aimed to be as comprehensive as possible. We counted all participants’ responses even though some participants reported multiple concerns when they should have selected only one top concern. Given this problem, to help interpret participants’ responses, for each voting scenario, we reported the number of participants who had more than one concern. This gave us an indication of the compliance rate for each question, but also provided us with important information about which voting scenario generated multiple concerns. Moreover, the survey form which was distributed for data collection did not have a method to prevent the same individuals from completing it multiple times. In fact, some participants completed the survey more than once. To help with this problem, we first cleaned the data file to exclude duplicate responses from analysis. Finally, multiple interpretations are possible for a given question, especially for the qualitative (i.e., open-ended) data collected. For example, many of the open-ended responses participants gave 43
expressing concerns about the new voting methods could be thematically organised under one of the multiple-choice options already provided. It could be that the options provided made certain concerns more salient in people’s minds and therefore influenced the type of concerns that they shared in the survey. Alternatively, it is also possible that the options provided may have been comprehensive enough.
Future Analyses Further analyses could be carried out in future to glean more insights from the current survey data. Suggestions and responses could be broken down based on those who voted versus those who did not vote, and if not too disaggregated, by how they voted. This could help reveal any non-obvious patterns latent in the data, especially for the section in which participants are asked about their opinions concerning new voting methods. However, these analyses would be reliable only if there is enough variability in people’s responses (e.g.: a roughly equal number of participants who voted and did not vote and/or a large number of participants in each category). Furthermore, responses to the question “What other changes would you like to see to the existing postal voting system, which might help you change your mind?” could be broken down according to various degrees of voter participation: (i) not registered, (ii) registered and voted and (iii) registered but did not vote. Reviewing how responses differ between these three categories may allow policy makers to discover whether priorities change when – among other things – automatic registration is implemented. Moreover, responses to most of the questions could be further broken down by age group (far more than has been done in this report) to see if any latent patterns emerge. To improve the robustness of these analyses, the data could first be rescaled or normalised (e.g.: by dividing the number of people in a given age group who selected a particular response by the total number of people in the age group). Otherwise, if we see a particular age group outnumbering others in their responses to some question, it would be difficult to tell if their strong response was simply because more people from that age group participated in the survey, or because that age group truly had a disproportionately strong response to that question compared to other age groups. (However, for such analyses to be reliable, age groups with too few participants – 18-20, 61-70 and 71-80 years – would have to be excluded, since they are unlikely to offer enough variability in their responses.) Beyond analyses on the existing data set, it could be useful to carry out further research in the future as a follow-up to this survey. In the current survey, participants were asked about various hypothetical voting scenarios in a specific order. In such a survey design, there could be order effects at play. For example, reading the first scenario might influence participants’ responses to the second. To remove any potential order effects, it might be worth conducting a survey-based experiment in which participants are randomly presented with a single voting scenario and asked about their preferences for that voting scenario, or one in which each participant is presented with the full set of scenarios in a different, randomised order. Doing so may allow researchers to more confidently analyse the degree to which participants prefer a particular voting process. This study has focused on the opinions of the Malaysian diaspora. It could be valuable to conduct an interview-based study of experts in various fields relevant to the overseas registration and voting methods discussed here. This would be especially important for the newer methods (e.g.: electronic 44
voting), with which the EC and the broader public have less experience. While public opinion is of vital importance to institutions such as the EC that aim to serve the rakyat, it is equally crucial to take stock of recommendations by experts (e.g.: in the field of cyber-security) who are more knowledgeable about particular subjects than the lay public. In addition, if any changes are implemented by the EC, it would be important to assess attitudes of Malaysians in response to those changes. By tracking public opinion over time through longitudinal surveys, the overseas voting process can be more responsive and accountable to the Malaysian diaspora. Future studies might also supplement the results of an online survey with follow-up interviews (e.g.: using Skype, WhatsApp or Facetime). Such interviews would be useful to further ascertain participantsâ€™ experiences and concerns about the overseas voting process. Interviews also allow participants to voice their perspectives in a less structured manner, which tends to elicit more in-depth responses than an online survey which lacks human interaction. For example, an interviewer could ask follow-up questions to more deeply explore and understand participantsâ€™ opinions.
Appendix: Survey Questions Global Bersih Electoral Reform Survey on Overseas Voting for GE15
Note: For questions which the Google Form forced participants to select just one response, their answer options have been presented here with round bullet points. Meanwhile, for questions which the survey form allowed participants to choose multiple responses, their answer options have been presented here with square bullet points. These formats were chosen to mimic the appearance and presentation of the different response options within the Google Form.
BASIC INFORMATION Question 1 Age: Answer options: o 18-20 yrs o 21-30 yrs o 31-40 yrs o 41-50 yrs o 51-60 yrs o 61-70 yrs o 71-80 yrs Question 2 City of residence: ________________________ Question 3 Country of residence: ________________________ Question 4 Occupation (including homemaker, retired and student): ________________________ Question 5 How long have you been living outside Malaysia? Answer options: o â‰¤ 5 yrs o 6-10 yrs o 11-15 yrs o 16-20 yrs o 21-25 yrs o 26-30 yrs o 31-35 yrs o 36-40 yrs o 41-45 yrs o 46-50 yrs o > 50 yrs 46
REGISTRATION PROCESS Question 6 Are you a registered voter (i.e. is your name registered on the Daftar Pemilih/Electoral Roll)? Answer options: o Yes o No (skip the next question) o I donâ€™t know (skip the next question) Question 7 Where did you register to vote (i.e. to get onto the Daftar Pemilih/Electoral Roll)? Answer options: o In Malaysia o At the Malaysian Foreign Mission near me Question 8 How accessible is the closest Malaysian foreign mission (i.e. Malaysian embassy, high commission or consulate)? Answer options: o < 1 hr of travel one way o 1-2 hrs of travel one way o 2-3 hrs of travel one way o â‰Ľ 3 hrs of travel one way o No Malaysian foreign mission in the country o Other: ________________________ Question 9 How easy is it for you to travel to the closest Malaysian foreign mission? (Please consider these factors before answering: transportation time and cost, time off from work and geographical limitations.) Answer options: o Very easy o Easy o Difficult o Very difficult Question 10 If everyone aged 18 years and above is automatically registered on the electoral roll, will this motivate you to vote? Answer options: o Yes o No Question 11 Did you register to vote from overseas (i.e. postal vote using Borang 1B) in GE14? Answer options: o Yes (skip next question) o No 47
Question 12 If you answered no, why not? Answer options: Did not know that this had to be done Do not trust the system Could not register within the given time Did not know where to obtain information on the registration process Did not fulfil the requirements set by EC Was not registered on the electoral roll Was not eligible due to age EC did not offer overseas voting in my country of residence Other: [free text answer] Question 13 Is this requirement set by the EC for Malaysians overseas to qualify for overseas postal voting necessary? According to the EC, overseas Malaysians must have been in Malaysia or must have returned to Malaysia for not fewer than 30 days within the 5 years before the dissolution of Parliament or the State Assembly. Answer options: o Yes o No Question 14 For GE14, overseas voting was not offered to Malaysians residing in Southern Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, and Kalimantan province, Indonesia. Do you think that overseas voting should be offered to all Malaysians in overseas, regardless of where they are? Answer options: o Yes o No Question 15 During GE13 and GE14, different methods were used for the overseas voter registration process. Do you think that a standardised registration process for overseas voters will motivate you to take part and vote? Answer options: o Yes o No o Maybe Question 16 During GE14, registration for overseas postal voting was available for 72 days. Do you think an ongoing registration process for overseas voters (until the dissolution of Parliament) will motivate you to take part and vote? Answer options: o Yes o No o Maybe 48
Question 17 Any suggestions on how the registration process for overseas voters can be improved (in point form, please)? ________________________
VOTING PROCESS Question 18 Did you vote from overseas during GE14? Answer options: o Yes o No (skip the next question) Question 19 If yes, how? Answer options: o Used the postal voting system offered by the Election Commission o Used a ballot carrier who flew back to Malaysia o Other: ________________________ Question 20 If you answered no, why did you not vote from overseas in GE14? Answer options: Flew back to Malaysia to vote Did not register to vote Received ballots too late so could not return them in time Never received the ballot papers Do not trust the system Was not aware about the overseas voting process Not eligible due to age Did not fulfil the requirements set by the EC Other: ________________________
Question 21 If enough time is given for voters to receive and send their ballots to Malaysia by post, would you be willing to trust the postal voting system used during GE14? Answer options: o Yes o No o Don’t know enough about the process to answer
Question 22 What other changes would you like to see to the existing postal voting system, which might help you change your mind? Answer options: Improved ballot security More transparent registration system More transparent voting system Better information dissemination by EC and Malaysian foreign missions EC to be responsible for all parts of the overseas postal voting process from sending out the ballots by diplomatic courier to receiving and counting the marked ballots Malaysian foreign missions in countries overseas where Malaysians reside should be involved as the primary points of contact for the overseas voting process Other: ________________________
Questions 23-27 Below are 5 different voting processes. Please read through each scenario and decide how likely you would be to use each of these methods to vote. Question 23 – Scenario A 23(a). To receive your ballot papers via email in a PDF for you to print out once using a secure PIN instead of receiving them by post Answer options: o Less likely to vote o Just as likely to vote (skip next question) o More likely to vote (skip next question) 23(b). If you answered less likely to vote, what is your main concern? (Please choose one.) Answer options: Lack of transparency in the process Ballot not secure No voter anonymity High chances of spoilt ballots (undi rosak) because ballots are printed by individuals Distrust the technology used Time-consuming Other: ________________________ Question 24 – Scenario B 24(a). To receive your ballot papers by post at the address that you have registered in the Borang 1B as required by the EC for GE15 Answer options: o Less likely to vote o Just as likely to vote (skip next question) o More likely to vote (skip next question)
24(b). If you answered less likely to vote, what is your main concern? (Please choose one.) Answer options: Lack of transparency in the process Ballot not secure No voter anonymity Time-consuming Do not trust the system after the GE14 experience Other: ________________________ Question 25 – Scenario C 25(a). To return your marked ballots by post to the Returning Officer of your constituency in Malaysia; the ballots will be counted there at the end of the polling day (as it was done in GE14) Answer options: o Less likely to vote o Just as likely to vote (skip next question) o More likely to vote (skip next question) 25(b). If you answered less likely to vote, what is your main concern? (Please choose one.) Answer options: Lack of transparency in the process Ballot not secure No voter anonymity Time-consuming Do not trust the system after the GE14 experience Other: ________________________ Question 26 – Scenario D 26(a). To return your marked ballots by post to a central Election Commission office in Malaysia that handles overseas postal votes; the marked ballots will be counted at the central office under observation at the end of the polling day Answer options: o Less likely to vote o Just as likely to vote (skip next question) o More likely to vote (skip next question) 26(b). If you answered less likely to vote, what is your main concern? (Please choose one.) Answer options: Lack of transparency in the process Ballot not secure No voter anonymity Time-consuming Other: ________________________
Question 27 – Scenario E 27(a). To return your marked ballots by post or in person to the Malaysian Foreign Mission in your country of residence and the ballots will be counted at the Malaysian Foreign Mission at the end of the polling day under the same observation possibilities as any other polling station in Malaysia; the final results will be forwarded to the EC Answer options: o Less likely to vote o Just as likely to vote (skip next question) o More likely to vote (skip next question) 27(b). If you answered less likely to vote, what is your main concern? (Please choose one.) Answer options: Lack of transparency in the process Ballot not secure No voter anonymity Time-consuming Other: ________________________
NEW VOTING METHODS Question 28 Do you think the EC should consider new voting methods such as electronic voting to improve the overseas voting process? Answer options: o Yes o No Questions 29-30 Below are 2 different examples of electronic voting methods that are used today. Please look through each scenario and decide how likely you would be to vote using each method. Question 29 – Scenario F 29(a). Voting is done using an electronic voting machine at a supervised location such as a Malaysian foreign mission or mobile voting station. The machine records the individual votes, totals the final vote count and forwards it to the EC at the end of the polling day. Answer options: o Less likely to vote o Just as likely to vote (skip next question) o More likely to vote (skip next question)
29(b). If you answered less likely to vote, what is your main concern? (Please choose one.) Answer options: Lack of transparency in the process Ballot not secure No voter anonymity Time-consuming Not comfortable with paperless concept Open to manipulation Other: ________________________ Question 30 – Scenario G 30(a). Voting is done online (via personal laptops, mobile phones, etc.) and the information is saved to a central EC server. The votes are digitally secured and separated from the voters’ personal details in the server. Once the polling period ends, the votes are calculated electronically to obtain the results. Answer options: o Less likely to vote o Just as likely to vote (skip next question) o More likely to vote (skip next question) 30(b). If you answered less likely to vote, what is your main concern? (Please choose one.) Answer options: Lack of transparency in the process Ballot not secure No voter anonymity Time-consuming Not comfortable with paperless concept Open to manipulation Uncomfortable about voting from an unsupervised environment (e.g.: at home) Other: ________________________ Question 31 Would you vote in GE15 if the Election Commission introduces more electronic elements in the overseas voting process, such as electronic ballots, electronic voting and electronic counting? Answer options: o Yes (skip next question) o No Question 32 If no, why not? Answer options: Lack of transparency Ballot not secure No voter anonymity Time-consuming Not comfortable with technology Open to manipulation Other: ________________________ 53
Question 33 Which of these do you think would be improvements on the existing overseas voting system? If you are unsure about the existing system, please choose â€œLikelyâ€? for the first option and disregard the rest. Likely
Donâ€™t know enough about the system to answer
Automatic voter registration
Ongoing and standardised registration for overseas voting
Lowering the voting age to 18 years
Extending the campaign period
Centralised management for overseas voting handled by EC
Using electronic registration (via email/website)
Using an electronic voting system such as online voting/ballot
Conducting an e-voting system pilot project for Malaysians overseas
Amending the rules and regulations to include all overseas voters as absent voters
Removing unnecessary requirements and limitations in the overseas voting process
Question 34 Are you confident that the EC will be able to offer an improved overseas voting process for GE15? Answer options: o Yes o No Question 35 What other changes do you want to see to the overseas voting process (in point form, please)? ________________________ Question 36 Email (optional): ________________________ Question 37 Name (optional): ________________________
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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Global Bersih would like to express our gratitude to the following individuals around the globe who worked tirelessly and around the clock to analyse and report on the data gleaned from the Overseas Voting Reform Survey: Satya Venugopal Hema Preya Selvanathan Hwa Shi-Hsia Pamela Wong Sharmala Rajoo Cindy Woon Ping Sim Adrian Fui Kiew Yong Khangzhen Leow Wan Leng See Dayana Bulchand
Suggested Citation Venugopal, Satya, et al. Overseas Voting Reforms Survey Report. Global Bersih, 2019.
Global Bersih is an international movement of overseas Malaysians, created to support Malaysian civil societyâ€™s work and strengthen Malaysiaâ€™s maturing democracy, using peaceful and legal means of action. Its Geneva base enables a stronger international platform to advocate for change, taking advantage of the dynamic international human rights movement in the city.
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