My GE13 PACA Experience

PACA

Well, my country’s 13th General Election is over, and the results have been officially announced. The incumbent BN coalition won 133 Parliamentary seats on 5.2m votes or 47.38% of votes against PR 89 seats on 5.6m votes or 50.87%. State wise, BN won 270 seats against PR 230.

I thought PR have done remarkably well, adding 7 Parliamentary Seats and 71 State Seats, albeit losing the State of Kedah marginally. I could understand the disappointment but could not accept the angry cry of fraud. It was not fraud, or even “Chinese Tsunami”, bollocks. It was just gerrymandering.  It has been the rule of the game so to say. Remember, gerrymandering cut both ways. PR, specifically PKR and PAS, just failed to prevail in those small constituencies. That’s all.

Immediate uproar, accusations of electoral fraud, vote buying and phantom voters or blackouts or last minute discovery of ballot boxes and rumour mills firing all pistons, so on and so forth were again bollocks. I find them hard to believe, and I will explain why.

Prior to the onset of election, I made it a point to attend as many PACABA (Polling Agent, Counting Agent & Barong Agent) trainings as possible. In fact, I attended six. I even attended three Bersih Pemantau briefings on the same matter. I guessed I was either too thick to understand or the trainings/briefings were too confusing for a layman like me or maybe the trainers were just excitedly confused. Anyway, I asked many questions to clarify, admittedly some direct and some confrontational, as I find many of the “horror” experiences shared were highly unbelievable, mere hearsays and nothing personal, and sounded more like coffeeshop talks.

Anyhow, I signed up as a Bersih Pemantau and also a PACA despite the confusion, for the first hand experience, and to walk the talk so to say.

The final briefing the night before election added only to the confusion. We were advised on designated our Polling Station (Saluran), handed our authorisation tags including appointment & secrecy letters and PACA kit (electoral voters list, forms, rules & regulations, pen, pencils, rulers, eraser and torchlight, yes torchlight in case of blackout). Ready or not, we were given the necessary equipment and pointed to the right direction, and off we went, bewildered. I slept restlessly that night in bated breath and anticipation.

Somehow, I managed to arrive early to report at our Barung outside the Polling Station, at my primary school (SK St Theresa) and I was the only one there. I could not wait, and I took a deep breath to calm the butterfly in my stomach, put on a brave front & confident face and set forth into the Polling Station. It felt like home coming onto familiar ground, a bit overcrowded though with concrete structures after almost 4 decades.

I was not too early for the Presiding Officer was already busy making preparations, setting out the polling room, recording the serial numbers of the ballot papers, filling out the various forms (Form 13 in particular). I politely made the introduction, and handed in my appointment & secrecy letters. I verified my copy of the voters list with his official copy. I requested for a sample of the official stamp. I recorded the serial numbers of the ballot papers on the Form 13.

The Presiding Officer then sealed the transparent and empty ballot boxes in my presence, and I countersigned on the seals. He handed the voters list with a ruler and pencil to Clerk 1, indelible ink to Clerk 2, ballot papers & official stamp to Clerk 3 and a ruler to Clerk 4. The ritual was part of the control procedures, and we were ready. The PACA for the other candidate turned up just before the Polling Station was opened. And yes, we had to make sure the Polling Station was free of any Party logo or signs.

At 8 am sharp, voters began to stream in the earnest. Clerk 1 would check that the voter’s finger had not been marked with the indelible ink, check the identification card against the voters list, read aloud the voter’s number for PA to record to track the voters’ turnout. She would then read aloud the voter’s I/C number and name for PA to verify before cancelling the name from her voters list, and likewise PA from their voters list.

The PA for the other candidate, there were two of them, one for recording on a booklet and one for cancelling voters on the voters list, and I had to feverishly multitask. One of them joked that I looked like I was working for Airasia. They were shocked when I replied that at least Airasia pays, whilst I was out of pocket just to volunteer. They were on the other hand paid RM$70 allowance each.

I was gratefully to be relieved at 10am by my PA2. I had to hand over a copy of the voters’ turnout to our Barung for tracking and record. Even I needed to cast my vote, right.

My missus and my eldest son came to fetch me, and we went to our Polling Station mighty proud. We were voting for the 1st time. We went back to my old school (SMK Ibrahim), and queued to verify our voting status at that EC Barung. Lo & behold, we were duly informed by the EC Barung clerk that we were in the wrong Polling Station. We were supposed to be in the primary school (SK Ibrahim) next door. Sigh, it was a hot and humid afternoon.

While I was grumbling silently to myself for such a silly mistake, an Indian lady asked the EC clerk where she could claim for transport. She was asked to approach the BN Barung outside the Polling Station. I met a fellow Bersih Pemantau outside and told him to check the incident out.

We walked over to our Polling Station, checked our names against the voters list, issued a Saluran ticket, had our left index finger inked indelibly and voted. It was swift for we had made up our mind long ago. I bumped into another fellow Bersih Pemantau and informed him about the earlier incident. Apparently, he had already followed up and found the whereabout to make such claims, i.e. at UMNO Building (Cawangan Merbok) along Jalan Ibrahim. He was from another town, and I offered to fetch him there to witness and record the whole affair.

I advised him to remove his Pemantau vest for he would stand out like a magnet for trouble in such volatile situations. I must say, he was quite fearless but a bit foolish, to wade immediately into the long crowded queue to observe, record and interview. I took some photographs from across the road.

I lost the sight of him for awhile. I went to look for him, to extract him in necessary. Thankfully, nothing untoward happened. So it was true that money were paid disguised as transport claims. Some would scream vote buying. Anyway, we sent him back to his post at the Polling Station, and I went home to rest. I tried to file my report online at PRU13.INFO but to no avail, so I just pasted instead on my FB. I bathed and the indelible ink was indelible no more. Sigh, so much hype for the 7-day indelible ink.

After a short power nap, I went back to relieve my fellow PA at 4pm. She was very relieved to see me. Morning voters’ torrent was now a trickle, only 6 voters during the last hour. The Presiding Officer closed the Polling Station at 5pm sharp. He immediately sealed the ballot boxes, and we countersigned on the seal. He then collected back all unused ballot papers and stationery from his Clerks. We counted and recorded the number of ballot papers issued, used and balance unused on the Form 13. Once our tally was in order we countersigned the Form 13. For the record, 439 turned up to vote from 626 on the voters list. He gave each of us a copy of Form 13 for record.

We procedurally left the ballot boxes in the locked Polling Station for 30 minutes. I stood guard outside like a hawk leaving no rooms for any misadventure or magic, just in case those “horror” stories were true. I did not even go for my toilet break. Luckily, my bladder was voluminous enough. A slight digression, the oldest voter who actually turned up to vote was 99 years old. The oldest person listed on the voters list was 101. I was told he died some 30 years ago in India. No wonder Bersih wanted EC to clean the electoral roll.

The Presiding Officer opened the Station at 5.40pm. We changed our PA tags for CA tags for we were now Counting Agents. EC staff immediately set about some housekeeping to set the room for counting. We discussed and agreed that smudges on the ballot papers from the indelible ink should be discounted and not quickly deemed as spoilt votes for there were many senior citizens and the ink did not dry up as fast.

The ballot box for State was opened first. The ballot papers were initially bundled in tens, then in hundreds for easy preliminary tally count. Legacy procedure when calculators were rocket science. We would record and verify against the figure on Form 13. Once nothing was amiss, or all ballot papers accounted for, the Clerk would open each ballot paper, read aloud the party voted and place the paper into the respective party’s tray, always under the watchful eyes of the CAs. In the event of doubt, the ballot concerned would be placed into the “Ragu” tray for later determination. Spoilt votes were placed into the “Rosak” tray. We would tally each vote as they were being read and placed into the respective tray.

Once the sorting process was done, we would determine the doubtful votes using the EC Guidelines, and placed them into the appropriate trays. Once completed, the Clerks would start bundling again in tens, then in hundreds for each party’s tray. We would check the count against our tally. Once agreed, the Presiding Officer would record the votes tally against each candidate/party (in the same order as they appear on the ballot paper) including spoilt votes on Form 14. We, CAs, would countersign on this very important and crucial Form 14. We were given a copy for record.

The counting process would then be repeated for ballot papers for Parliament. The process was intentionally protracted and tediously slow with checks at various stages to ensure all ballot papers and votes were accounted for, no sudden or magical or mystical phantom votes. Well, it took us almost 3 hours just to verify, sort and count 439 votes each for State and Parliament.

We would start to SMS the results to our Party’s Central Office to keep tab on the vote tally as the counting progressed. Expectations waxed and waned, sentiments flared usually due to misconstrued trend from early unofficial tally figures. Remember, voters are as parochial and national as Democracy is divisive.

Once counting for State and Parliament were completed, Form 14 properly signed, the Presiding Officer would keep and seal all documents, ballot papers, stationery etc into envelopes and place them into the ballot boxes. The boxes were then secured and bagged for transport to the Central Counting Station for safekeeping. Here again, many have misunderstood them as postal votes, and setting rumour mills afire. Stopping cars with ballot bags to stop fraud from phantom or postal votes would sound rather simplistic. Why bother when EC could easily and malevolently forged Form 14, right. Blackouts at Central Counting Station would serve no magical purpose.

We, CAs, were each given a copy of the Form 14 which I immediately handed to our Party’s office together with the PACA kit, and my small participation in GE13 done. Did I say our Party? My apologies, I am no Party member, it is my friend’s Party and I was merely helping a candidate friend. Nevertheless, I have earned my bragging rights.

In closing, I wish to register my sincerest appreciation and gratitude to Mr Jaafar bin Othman (the Presiding Officer) and his team at SK St Theresa Polling Station for a job well done. They were very helpful, cordial and professional.

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