How to Object Constitutionally
Do you know that our Federal Constitution, the Supreme Law of our country, contains principles on how electoral boundaries should be drawn? In other words, EC cannot just delineate according to their whims and fancies.
What is Malapportionment?
The first thing that you can object to is malapportionment. It is the unequal numbers of voters assigned to constituencies within the same State. This means not all votes have the same value. Those in large constituencies will see their vote value diluted.
According to Sec.2(c), Part 1 of the 13th Schedule of the FC …
“the number of electors within each constituency in a State ought to be approximately equal except that, having regard to the greater difficulty of reaching electors in the country districts and the other disadvantages facing rural constituencies, a measure of weightage for area ought to be given to such constituencies.”
That means “Equal Apportionment” not Malapportionment!
Take for example EC’s proposal for Selangor. Instead of proposing that the Federal seats within the state be made approximately equal, EC actually proposed that P106 Damansara, renamed from PJ Utara be increased from 85,401 to 150,439!
At the same time, P092 Sabak Bernam remains at 37,126. That means P106 Damansara has 4.05 times more voters than P092 Sabak Bernam!
Surely you can’t say 4.05 is equal to 1.
In our original Federal Constitution in 1957, there was a limit that constituencies should not be more or less than 15% from the state average. I say we should use that as a standard for what it means to be “approximately equal”.
What is Gerrymandering?
It is the manipulation of electoral boundaries in such a way that it favours a certain political party.
Sec.2(d) of the 13th Schedule says …
(d) regard ought to be had to the inconveniences attendant on alterations of constituencies, and to the maintenance of local ties.
What does it mean to “maintain local ties?”
- Firstly, It should not cross local authority or PBT (Pihak Berkuasa Tempatan) boundaries.
The proposed P107 Sungai Buloh (formerly Subang) has 4 local authorities within it. That’s a new record! This is clearly gerrymandering.
- Secondly, it should not combine communities with little things in common, even if they are in the same PBT like rural and urban.
Putatan is a semi-rural town south of Kota Kinabalu and yet it is combined with the urban area of Tanjung Aru and the exclusive resort of Sutera Harbour. What common ties do they have with each other.
- Thirdly, it should not separate communities that are similar like village or taman.
Two polling districts (Daerah Mengundi) – Sri Amar and Belantik, were removed from P160 Johor Bahru during the previous delineation in 2003. More importantly, they were electorally separated from their community, Kampung Melayu Majidee.
What are other considerations should we consider?
- Infrastructure markers like roads, highways, railway tracks, electrical pylons.
The boundary of P121 Lembah Pantai was following the SPRINT Highway but suddenly turned off into Jalan Damansara. The result is that the community of Damansara is cut into two – one remain in Lembah Pantai and the other in P117 Segambut.
- Natural markers like rivers, valleys, mountains, sea are normally followed as they do separate communities.
The boundary of P195 Bandar Kuching followed the winding Sungai Sarawak closely then turned south to cut out a large chunk of the community at Kg Bandarshah and Sin Yen Garden. Such departure could well be gerrymandering in action.
What’s in a Name?
If you find the name proposed or even currently given for your constituency doesn’t make sense to you, you can object to it.
Sometimes a name that is strange to you may indicate to you that you are GERRYMANDERED!
Rules for the Local Inquiry
According to Election Commission…
- Each group of 100+ affected voters are only allowed up to a maximum number 3 spokespersons to represent them.
- A total of 20 affected voters are allowed into the inquiry room including the 3 spokespersons.
- The names and details of the 20 affected voters attending the inquiry must be submitted beforehand to the EC after you have been invited to attend.
- If you are unable to attend the inquiry, you may make a written submission as soon as possible before the start of the inquiry.
- The inquiry will go ahead with or without your attendance and decisions will be made in your absence.
More Rules for the Local Inquiry
- The proceeding must be conducted in Bahasa Malaysia.
- You must bring your Identity Card for registration.
- No outside lawyer allowed unless he or she is one of the 100+ named affected voters.
- The spokespersons must arrive at the venue of the inquiry 30 minutes before the proceeding start.
- Spokespersons must take an oath before speaking.
- You have 30 minutes to give your reasons why you object to the redelineation proposal by EC. Any extension of time is at the discretion of the EC.
- During the inquiry you can only bring up what you are objecting to.
- All attendees must be dressed decently and neatly; behave rationally; and follow all instructions given by the EC officers.
- No handphone or any recording devices is allowed during the proceeding.
- You will not be informed of any decisions by the EC and you may not ask the EC for its decision on your objections.
- EC has the discretion to determine any other rules as and when needed.
The Layout of the Inquiry
- First, you need to register at the counter outside the inquiry room.
- Upon entering the room, the 3 spokespersons will take their seats facing the Commissioners while the remaining accompanying affected voters will take their seats behind them.
- The secretariat staff will be seated towards your right and left.
- Buy a copy of the Federal Constitution and bring it with you, to show that you are standing on the principles found in the FC.
- Bring your MyKad with you.
These are optional but will be good if you have them.
- Be familiar with the 13th Schedule and if possible, memorize Sec.2(c) and 2(d).
- To show malapportionment, get a spreadsheet table to show state seats from largest to smallest and where your constituency is placed.
- Bring a LCD projector and project Google Earth the KMZ map of your constituency with polling districts (DM) of your constituency as recommended by EC, explaining which DM should be included or removed and why.
Why you can be confident
- You are participating in a legal process; it’s your right to be heard.
- Your objections are based on the supreme law of the country, the Federal Constitution. Bring a copy of the FC with you and show it.
- EC is there to hear you and serve your need as a voter.