August 11, 2023
GEORGE TOWN – If you think it is a hassle to head to the polling station to queue up and vote, wait until you learn how much trouble Malaysians living overseas have to go through to exercise that same right.
Many of them keep in touch with each other wherever they work and live and come election season, whoever happens to be flying home in time steps forward as the “runner” to collect everyone’s postal votes and make sure their ballots reach the Election Commission before polling day.
Penangite Alex Toh, who has been living in California for the past year, revealed the connectedness Malaysians share abroad and how they band together to make sure their votes still count.
Last year, Toh did not get to vote in the 15th General Election and was instead the volunteer who collected all the available postal votes of Malaysians in the Sacramento and Folsom areas and drove the ballots to the nearest runner two hours away.
This year, for the state elections, Toh said they were overjoyed to receive their postal ballot papers in the nick of time.
“But the nearest available runner was in Los Angeles (about 660km away). He was flying out on Tuesday night, so we quickly mailed ours to him with an overnight courier to make sure he could carry our votes home.
“The courier cost was US$84.21 (RM384.71), even within California. We have been through so much just to cast our votes. For those who are in Malaysia, please do your part too,” he said in an interview.
Toh, an engineer, believes that Malaysians must do their duty to vote.
“This duty must be done no matter where we are,” he said.
“It’s probably something I learnt since young while exploring and studying the importance of democracy and voting.”
He said this is how Malaysians can raise their voices about something they dislike.
“A fair voting outcome is one that shows the decision made by the majority on the direction that the country and state should take.
“It’s also a reminder to politicians that the ‘management’ can be changed if voters are dissatisfied,” he added.
Like Toh, other Malaysians overseas have shared how they helped each other to make sure their postal votes reach Malaysia on time.
In a private group on social media, Malaysians worldwide band together for this purpose.
One user, known only as Wong, said she sent her vote from Perth to Selangor via a courier service for A$90 (RM270).
Many others share collection points for postal votes in countries like Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong so volunteers can help bring them back to Malaysia.
The state elections in Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah, Selangor, Penang and Negri Sembilan will be held simultaneously tomorrow with the Kuala Terengganu parliamentary by-election.