I read with great dismay one of proposed reform put forward by the Public Select Committee on electoral reform, which is the removal of serial number on ballot paper.
>> the serial number on the ballot paper be removed to ensure anonymity of the votes, (serial number to be maintained only on the counterfoil of the ballot paper);
The reason for this is for protecting secrecy of the voters' choice. But this proposal will give room to abuse and greater confusion!
Any accounts clerk or administration executive knows that sequential numbering of documents such as invoices, delivery notes etc are there to ensure completeness of a stack of documents. Any documents that falls out of range is questionable.
After being enlightened by some knowledgeable people in area of polling and counting agent work, I was horrified to envisage the implication of the proposal.
In the case of ballot papers, there is a control form called Form 13. At the beginning of the day, the EC staff would check the serial numbers on the ballots and note down the range of ballots that will be issued for the day. (see Bahagian A)
Bahagian B would record the serial number of the ballots issued.
Now what happens if the Form 13 says there are 300 ballot papers before vote casting, 200 ballots have been issued but when the EC staff open the ballot box there is 220 ballot paper inside?
Ok if candidate A beat candidate B by 180 vs 40 but what if the contest is a close run thing like 111 vs 109? The extra 20 phantoms could tilt the balance.
The present election law (Third Schedule, Regulatons 25(5), Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981) mention curiously that in such cases, the presiding officer will ask EC clerks to check for perforated marks on ballot paper (note: not whether the serial number of the ballots are within the range of Bahagian A or duplicated numbers). The presiding officer also have the power to amend the Form 13 if he thinks fit.
Commonsense would tell us that the best way to fish out phantom votes would be to arrange the uncounted ballots sequentially according to their serial number and wa-la! Repeated numbers and numbers out of range would be identified clearly and justice is served.
Keep the darn numbers!
As for secrecy, I guess some people worried that if the sequence of voters that walked in are some how tracked by someone (which is an offence under S5 of the Election Offences Act, 1954 and liable to fine not exceeding RM3,000 or imprisonment not exceeding 1 year - so when you go voting remember this).
This is very easily overcome, so enlightened souls said.
The EC clerk should tear and present 5 ballot papers for the voters to choose so eventhough the sequence of Ah Kow, Maznah, Samy and Yaya Toure could be tracked, but the ballot they picked up is known only to themselves and god.
Do this until 4:30pm and by then whoever was trying to track ballot numbers and sequence of walk in would end up in a mental hospital.
Simple and easy.
Why make things more difficult even though the intention may be good?