According to the World Health Organization’s 15% estimate of the population with disabilities is over 4.5 million in Malaysia. There is no record of disabled voters in the whole number of the country’s eligible voters.
The Ministry of Women, Family, and Community and Development is responsible for safeguarding the rights of persons with disabilities. In November 2013, disability rights activist Bathmavathi Krishnan was sworn in as the country’s second-ever senator with a disability.
In Malaysian law, even though there is no discrimination against PWDs to become eligible voters and senators, the participation of PWD voters are still relatively low. They claimed to be treated on a charitable basis instead of looking at their rights.
All policies, processes and procedures are applied equally to all except where under sub-regulation 19(7) of the Elections (Conduct of Elections) Regulations 1981, where at the request of a voter who is incapacitated by blindness or other physical cause from voting in a manner prescribed by this Regulations may take along a person whom he trusts to mark the ballot paper on his behalf and place it in the ballot box.
In the past, only members of his/her family or presiding offers were allowed to assist PWDs in polling stations. Now, an assistant could be a trusted person, Malaysian citizen, 21 years old, and there is no need to be a registered voter. However, the person who assists needs to make a statutory declaration in Form 10, or otherwise, a presiding officer at the polling station may help.
On polling day, there are special provisions for PWDs, such as wheelchairs, EC ushers, assistance to get a voting slip, given preference at the polling station, no need to wait in line, they can cast their vote at polling station number 1 for senior citizens, and the station is always in the ground floor with ramps for wheelchairs.
Starting from 2019, the EC assign the PWD voters at the first polling station by using the name list from the Department of Social Welfare.
Another challenge is that the Election Commission and political parties don’t include PWDs in their target group for political awareness programs. Neither the Federal Constitution nor the Persons with Disabilities Act mention the political rights of disabled people explicitly.
However, Article 29 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) requires that disabled people are guaranteed full and effective participation in political and public life on an equal basis with others. Malaysia, being a signatory to this instrument and having ratified it, is bound by the CRPD to ensure that those rights are protected.
Malaysia, Election Access, http://www.electionaccess.org/en/resources/countries/MY/all/.
Issues of disabled community in Malaysia ‘not addressed properly’, Asia One, October 25, 2015, http://news.asiaone.com/news/malaysia/issues-disabled-community-malaysia-not-addressed-properly#sthash.xNMUChOw.dpuf.
Peter Tan, Why disabled people must vote, Borneo Post Online, April 13, 2013, http://www.theborneopost.com/2013/04/13/why-disabled-people-must-vote/#ixzz3wvm5sPsp.