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South Korea shows Malaysia how overseas voting can be done

NONEWhile the Election Commission (EC) is struggling to make the changes necessary to facilitate overseas voting, South Koreans living in Malaysia are gearing up to vote for their president from abroad for the first time.

At the Korea Day Exhibition in the Sunway Convention Centre, Subang Jaya, that ended yesterday, its embassy officials and volunteers set up a booth to register their citizens as absentee voters.

Overseas election officer Sim Hyun Whoa (left) told Malaysiakini when met at the embassy's booth that the necessary legislative changes were made in 2007, but preparations only started in 2011 in the run-up for the April 2012 general assembly election.

"If they (the voters) are not in Korea, they would have to inform the government that they are not in Korea. Once they are recognised, they can vote for the president at the embassy," said Sunny Huang Eun Sun, a volunteer at the booth interpreting for Sim during the interview.

She said that South Koreans are automatically added to the electoral roll upon registering for their identity card at the age of 19, but would need to register in advance each time they intend to cast absentee votes.

NONEThe overseas voting system was first used for the national assembly election - which was held in April this year, while the current registration drive is for the presidential election on Dec 19.

The registration period is for 91 days, from July 22 to Oct 20, while the voting period for absentee voters is from Dec 5 to Dec 10.

Korea's election dates are fixed at the end of the general assembly's four-year term, and the president's five years.

Mock polling station in Sunway

Malaysia's EC has said that Malaysian expatriates would be allowed to vote by post on Aug 25 last year, but to date the necessary arrangements have not been made.

NONEFor now, only civil servants and government-sponsored students abroad may cast absentee votes, although the EC had said that the necessary changes to election regulations and the forms would be ready by the end of the current parliamentary session.

Back at the Korean booth, Sim and his volunteers even set up a mock polling station to ensure that voters would know what to do when they show up at the embassy in December.

NONEAfter a voter's identity and eligibility is confirmed, a small printer coughs out the ballot paper while another prints out an adhesive envelope label with the voter's constituency displayed.

An uninterruptible power supply (UPS) ensures that the system runs smoothly even in event of a blackout.

The voter then proceeds to the polling booth to make his or her choice using a pen-shaped rubber stamp (left), seal the ballot in the envelope with the label affixed, and casts it in a ballot box.

Similar problems

When told that Malaysians had sometimes unwittingly invalidated their votes by marking their choice with marks other than a cross, Sim said, "We had (similar) problems 50 years ago, that's why we use this marking device."

NONEHe added that the presidential candidate's representatives would be stationed at each of Korea's embassies to monitor the six-day advance voting process.

At the end of the advance voting period, the envelopes will be sent to the National Election Commission via diplomatic pouch, which will then forward it to returning officers in the appropriate constituency.

The envelopes will only be opened and its ballots counted after the presidential polls ends on Dec 19, along with the ordinary votes.

When asked about the voter turnout, Sim said there are 11,500 Koreans eligible to vote in Malaysia, of whom only 2,050 had applied to be absentee voter and 904 had actually cast their votes, or about 7.9 percent, at April's national assembly election.

He said about 2,300 are expected to register to be absentee voters for the presidential election by closing date next Saturday.
A number of popular K-pop singers have been roped in to urge voters to register.

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