Malaysians, Here's Everything You Need To Know About Voting If You're Living Overseas

101 on voting from afar!

Cover image via SAYS

On 13 November, Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that the 14th General Election will take place sometime in the next 180 days

Deputy Prime Minister Dato' Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi

Image via The Malaysian Insight

This means the next general election will be held before 12 May 2018. The 13th General Election was held on 5 May 2013.

The Malaysian Constitution says that an election must be held within five years of the first meeting of the Parliament and the first meeting of the 13th Parliament of Malaysia took place on 24 June 2013.

In line with that, the 13th Parliament will be automatically dissolved on 24 June 2018 and elections must be called within 60 days of the dissolution of Parliament.

With elections around the corner, eligible Malaysians that have yet to register as voters have been advised to do so immediately, instead of dilly-dallying and registering at the eleventh hour. 

So, what are the basic qualifications needed to register as a voter in Malaysia?

1. Be a Malaysian citizen
2. Be 21 years old and above
3. Never been barred/disqualified by any laws in the force

One is not eligible to register as a voter in Malaysia if:

i. on the qualifying date, you are serving jail term or detained as a person of unsound mind; or 

ii. before the qualifying date, you have been convicted or sentenced to death or serving a jail term of more than 12 months and you're still liable on the qualifying date; or 

iii. found guilty under the Election Offences Act 1954; or 

iv. have a foreign citizenship (Malaysian laws do not permit a Malaysian to have dual citizenship) 

If you've yet to register as a voter, here's the easiest, most convenient way of doing so in Malaysia:

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via KLIA
1. Head to the nearest post office with your IC. 

2. Fill in the registration Form A and the whole process should take no more than a few minutes. 

3. Once the process is done, check your voter details/status on Suruhanjaya Pilihanraya Malaysia's (SPR) website by keying in your IC number. Note that it takes around four months for your name to appear in the electoral roll. 

Alternatively, head to the one of these places to register as a voter: 

1. SPR headquarters at Aras G, Menara SPR, No. 2, Jalan P2T, Presint 2, Putrajaya. 

2. Any of the state SPR offices

Please keep a copy of the registration form as proof and reference. 

According to SPR, the registration of Malaysian voters is divided into two categories, namely absent voters and normal voters.

Malaysians living abroad who are eligible to be absent voters are:

i. Military personnel
ii. Spouses to (i)
iii. Government personnel (Federal Government, States Service, or Local Authorities) who are in service abroad
iv. Spouses to (iii)
v. Full-time students (you'll need to show any document showing institution, course, and duration of study)
vi. Spouses to (v)

Note that even if you've already registered as a voter in Malaysia prior to living abroad, you'll still need to go to the Malaysian embassy to register as an absent voter in order for you to vote in the upcoming elections.  

If you have not registered as a voter in Malaysia, head to the embassy or high commission to register as one

Malaysians waiting in line to cast their votes outside the Malaysian High Commission in London during the 13th General Election in May 2013.

Image via The Nut Graph

The documents required to register as an absent voter or a first time voter are: 

- Passport 
- IC 

Normal voters are Malaysians other than the ones stated above and are required to return to Malaysia and vote in the area they've registered in.

On the subject of other Malaysians living abroad who wish to vote in the general elections, former deputy chairman of SPR Wan Ahmad Wan Omar, informed in 2013 that all Malaysians who are registered voters can apply to vote by post

Image for illustration purposes only.

Image via Lenggong Valley/Blog

They must have spent at least 30 days (does not need to be consecutively) in Malaysia, in the past five years to apply to vote by post from the respective countries they're in.

He said that this does not apply to registered voters living in Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, and Brunei who are required to return to Malaysia should they wish to cast their votes.

A couple months back, Malaysian Digest got in touch with SPR regarding this matter and was told that getting recognised as an Absent Voter is usually on a case by case basis. 

"Generally, those who are employed in the private sectors overseas or are not JPA-sponsored students, are required to register as absentee voters in Malaysia prior to their departure," the SPR officer explained. 

However, the information on SPR's website does not reflect these changes on the eligibility to vote by post

Image via SPR

A quick check on Malaysian High Commission website also revealed that only military personnel, civil servants on official duties, full-time students, and their spouses are eligible to register as absent voters. Attempts to seek clarifications from SPR on this matter failed. 

So, if you are a registered Malaysian voter who's living abroad and do not fall into the Absent Voter category specified by SPR, head to the Malaysian High Commission office at your earliest convenience and request for details to register to vote by post in the upcoming elections. 

Once you have already submitted the application forms to register as an absent voter, here's how the voting process will be:

1. Application forms for registrations as absent voters will be submitted to SPR for processing and registration. 

2. List of voters eligible for absent voting will be prepared by SPR and sent to Malaysian Missions overseas for confirmation. The Office of Malaysian Missions has been appointed to act as Assistant Registrar of Voters and will assist in the registration exercise of Malaysian voters abroad on behalf of SPR. 

3. The amended list (if any) will be resubmitted to SPR for the final process. 

4. The final list will be sent by SPR to Missions to be displayed in the Missions website. The same list will be on SPR's website too. 

5. SPR will send the ballot papers to Missions before the election date. 

6. Missions will send the ballot papers to voters based on their registered address. 

7. The casting of ballot papers in two ways, namely: 

i. At the registered residence of the voters; or
ii. At the Malaysian Missions

8. All ballot papers that have been duly casted must be returned to SPR by either: 

i. Express post direct using the envelope provided by SPR but at the individual's own expense; or 
ii. Return the ballot papers to Malaysian Missions for onward forwarding to SPR via the Special Diplomatic Bag. 

9. Absent voters who cast their votes at the Malaysian Missions, will need to hand over the ballot papers to the appointed election officials to be submitted to SPR. 

Please note that all ballot papers must be returned to SPR before 5pm on the voting day. 

The key here is to register as a voter immediately after you turn 21, always make sure that your name is in the electoral roll (check from time to time to ensure that all details are accurate) and seek clarifications from SPR should you have any concerns or questions regarding your status as a voter or the voting process!

Speaking of voting, here's what to do if your name goes missing from the electoral roll:

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