SPR: to random or not to random

Tindak Malaysia, a NGO specializes in training volunteers as Polling and Counting Agent (PACAs) for elections, recently advocated their insistence on randomization of ballot papers to the SPR.

What is randomization?
In a nutshell, it means the ballot papers are not to be torn and handed out to voters according to the sequence in ballot booklet.

Why TM thinks it is necessary?
TM thinks that randomization is necessary to safeguard secrecy of votes, i.e. someone can actually trace who voted for who.

Is it possible to trace who you voted for?
For illustration purposes, in an electoral roll, there are 5 voters
1)      Michael Jackson
2)      Lady Gaga
3)      Madonna
4)      Siti Nurhaliza
5)      Jackie Chan

On polling day, Michael did not turn up (don’t know why) but the rest came in this sequence – Jackie, Madonna, Siti then Gaga. So if the ballot papers are handed out in its booklet sequence, then Jackie would be issued with ballot paper No.1, Madonna No. 2, Siti No.3 and Lady Gaga No. 4.

However, how practical is it for someone to actually trace ballots? “If-ever” and whoever the lawbreakers are, the following has to be done:

1)   Someone has to record the sequence of voters’ arrival – quite difficult as only the SPR Kerani 1 can write during the polling process and he or she is supposed to be scrutinized by a polling agent sitting close to him or her. and then;

2)   Someone has to get those ballot casted – which are sealed and kept in a secured manner and burnt after a period of 6 months – and trace, painstakingly, one by one the ballot papers.

 All the ballot boxes containing the votes casted will be sealed by the Election Commission committee after the general election and destroyed in the presence of your MP/State Assemblyman. Therefore, no one can know who you voted for. Your vote is secret.

While it may be technically possible, I would seriously doubt anybody would bother to go through all the trouble and illegality to pin point individuals. Conclusive evidence of individuals being singled out and dealt with is lacking.

Collectively punishment, meanwhile, are a separate matter altogether.

The Star) - Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has shot down a request that the Federal Government extend development funds to Opposition MPs.

The Deputy Prime Minister said the funds were only meant for small projects in Barisan Nasional MP’s constituencies.


Responsibility of SPR
Since TM has already made a case to SPR it is only right that SPR made clear their stand to the public. In fact, TM has already circulated leaflets in 4 languages telling the public to ask for another ballot paper to be issued to them

(see tip # 3): Encik/Puan, saya mintan kertas undi yang lain dari bawah

If the SPR staff and general public are on different wave length, confusion/arguments can occur which could result in voters being evicted and prevented from voting; or continuous disruption of polling processes.

Now if someone goes around telling people that there is a 8 foot man eating panda roaming Petaling Street, then I would expect the police or some other authority to go public and clarify this as a rumour.

SPR, being a tax payer funded civil service has an obligation to clarify to the public to avoid confusion. SPR at least have to do the following:

1) Engage TM in a dialogue to trash things out/reach  an understanding
2) Sought a legal opinion with the courts or attorney general
3) Inform the public the outcome of 1) and 2)
4) Brief their staff pertaining to the outcome of 1) and 2)

Otherwise, chaos will reign. SPR is responsible for proper conduct of general elections. It must clarify this matter to the public who are being told of such an alternative, which was never put in practice before. With this potential chaos looming, the silence of SPR is most deafening!

An NGO’s public education message is radically altering one of SPR’s Standard Operating Procedure.

Extract from Tindak Malaysia website:

If Presiding Officer (KTM) insists on issuing the ballot paper from the top, warn him that he is violating the Election Offences Act.


SPR must, for the interest of public order and understanding, make their stance loud and clear otherwise it would be a disservice to the general public. SPR must also disclose to the public its comprehensive SOP in ensuring secrecy of votes as it belongs to a self-proclaimed People First and Performance First administration.


  1. Regarding the recording of voter sequence, a Polling Agent who does not need to monitor the conduct of the polling process can record each Nombor Bilangan as it is called out by the Kerani. The Ketua Tempat Mengundi (KTM) can also do that.

    The KTM is a temporary employee of the SPR. While he is sworn to secrecy, there is no specific regulation or law that prohibits his recording the Bilangan. Ditto for the Polling Agent. If they are members of the incumbent party, they would have sufficient motive to record the numbers.

    Of course, if all candidates are represented at the destruction of the Ballots, irregularities can be prevented. But the reality is that, previously, opposition candidates have not been able to sustain the effort and do not send agents to witness the destruction.

    Since this entire argument is about cheating by the incumbent, the presence of an MP or ADUN is no assurance. If the Ballots can be accessed for just a short while, the serial number and voted candidate can be quickly captured before the ballots are destroyed. The data can be matched with the Bilangan sequence at leisure.

    Government servants are already fearful of the lack of secrecy of their vote. This fear has been exploited by unscrupulous officers to force their subordinates to vote for the incumbent.

    If the SPR is interested in dispelling the fear, a simple randomisation process can be implemented. Arguing the nitty-gritty points gives no assurance to the fearful.

    And the exploitation of that fear is the real issue we need to address. Can we do that? Or is that one more item to be swept under the carpet?

  2. Wee Tak, good article. A fundamental principle of Free and Fair Elections is the opportunity to vote free from fear. One of the safeguards is secrecy of voting. This is protected by law and the Election Offences Act devote one whole section to it - S5 Maintaining secrecy at elections. This is reinforced in Section 39.

    On top of that, under the Conduct of Elections, there are very elaborate procedures on how to protect the secrecy of the vote.
    Eg Regulation 13(3), 19(5) and 19(8). The penalty for violation is RM 3,000 or 1 years jail or both on conviction. It is classified as a seizable offence under the meaning of the Criminal Procedure Code, which means that you can make a citizen arrest of the offender.

    Obviously, the Govt takes this seriously, at least on paper. So why don't we give effect to it by randomizing the issue of the ballot paper. It is so intuitive. So far, thousands of people have been exposed to this technique and they have expressed satisfaction with it.