Forty eight persons turned up, including seven seminarians from the College General, lead by Fr. Julien Leow. There were a few from the mainland too.
The objective of the voter education is to empower the participants with the knowledge of their rights as voters. They were also informed of the polling/counting processes and the strengths and weaknesses of the current electoral processes.
The Voter Education was conducted by two volunteers trainers from TindakMalaysia, KL, which is a civil society action group that provides regular Voter Education and PACABA (Polling Agent, Counting Agent, Barung Agent) training sessions for members of the public who are keen to help protect the sanctity of the electoral process.
The session began with the explanation of the concept of gerrymandering. and how it impact the election. Statistical data of past election seats allocation were shown to prove gerrymandering. The participants were also told that as the General Election is not a level-playing field, thus volunteers are encouraged to sign up as Polling Agents, Counting Agents and Barung (Booth) Agents (PACABA) to provide a check and balance.
The roles of PACABA were then explained to them, followed by information on how a polling centre set-up looks like, including who sits where and what are their duties.
“Each polling centre is divided into multiple streams.” said the trainer, “Each stream has approximately 500 voters and voters are allocated to the different streams based on their age. In each stream, there are three SPR clerks and a presiding officer, sitting facing each other. Then there are the Polling Agents, sitting facing the voting counters. Of course, right in the centre is the ballot box, where the votes are dropped in.”
The strainer stressed that it is important for each candidate to be represented by a Polling Agent and a Counting Agent at all streams and at all times.
The role of the three SPR clerks were explained and this caught the participants full attention when the trainer mentioned although the ballot paper has serial numbers, the clerks are not allowed to record the voter’s ID with the serial number. Further, a voter has the right to ask for any ballot paper, not necessary the top one which the clerk tear off for the voter. In this way, the secrecy of the voter is protected.
“The SPR clerk will give you the top ballot paper. Each ballot paper has a serial number. It is possible to match your name to the serial number. Doing this is an offence under Section 5. Maintenance of secrecy at elections of the Election Offences Act 1954. Therefore you are entitled to ask the SPR clerk to give you another ballot paper from the same booklet. If she/he refused to, tell him she/he is violating Section 5 of the Election Offences Act. The Polling Agent will help you.”
Participants are also reminded to check that the ballot paper they receive is clean (no marks or writing), not torn, clearly perforated and has a serial number. If any of the conditions are not met, immediately ask for a new ballot paper. Then when they vote, remember to mark clearly and do not ever use an eraser as this will spoil the vote.
The session ended with something very interesting and fun – role-play, which the participants sportingly joined in. It was a role-play on the importance of the Barung Agent.
“The part of the Barung Agent is often neglected but people should know that the role of the Barung Agents is very important, as they are the first line of defense.” said the trainer. “This role is difficult to carry out because of the speed of the voters coming in, especially during the morning. They might missed out checking on some voters. The ‘Barung’ is the verification booth, as soon as you enter the polling centre. It’s the first place that you approach and stop. The Barung Agent will verify that you are a voter in that polling centre and the Barung Clerk will issue you a slip directing you to the correct polling station. This slip has a reference number known as ‘Bil’ at the top corner, written by the Barung Clerk.”
The role-play consists of 2 scenarios. The first scenarios highlighted the expected performance and behavior of the Barung Agent. One of the trainer played a Phantom Voter so as to show the participants how to spot one and how to deal with it. The second scenario was to stimulate an overcrowded Barung to train the Barung Agents to cope with the actual stressful situation.
After the role-play, the trainers summarise important points that were presented.
City Parish might organize Level 2 for Polling Agent and Counting Agent training, if there are enough interested people.
– written by Lucia Lai, original version. published in Herald, 11 March 2012 edited version.
(see also brief news in UCAN)
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