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Jakarta Post

Voter zeal leads to poll hiccups

  • Karina M. Tehusijarana, Ghina Ghaliya, Agnes Anya and Tertiani ZB Simanjuntak

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Mon, April 15, 2019   /   09:45 am
Voter zeal leads to poll hiccups Fiesta of democracy: Indonesians living in Malaysia have their documents checked at their embassy in Kuala Lumpur before casting their overseas ballots ahead of the country’s April 17 general election on Sunday. More than 190 million Indonesians are to cast ballots on Wednesday in one of the world’s biggest one-day elections, with some 2 million living overseas also registered to vote, including in Malaysia. (AFP/Mohd Rasfan)

A bigger than expected turnout by unregistered voters led to long lines at polling stations in various cities around the world over the weekend.

Photos of snaking lines in cities like Amsterdam and Tokyo flooded social media on Saturday and Sunday as hundreds of thousands of Indonesian voters took to polling stations to cast their votes.

More than 2 million overseas voters are registered on the final voter list (DPT) compiled by the General Elections Commission (KPU).

Registered voters were able to vote when the polls opened, generally from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time, but unregistered voters had to wait until an hour before the polls closed, leading to long lines.

The KPU is mulling reopening polling stations in Sydney, where hundreds of voters failed to cast their ballots because of time constraints.

Donny Verdian, a 41-year-old design consultant and blogger living in Sydney, said the polling station at the Sydney Town Hall closed at 6 p.m. local time on Saturday despite a large number of unregistered voters still waiting in line.

“The line stretched for three blocks,” he told The Jakarta Post on Sunday. “The doors were closed on time and guarded by several well-built officials.”

Donny managed to vote but others were not so lucky.

“Hundreds of Indonesians, who are eligible to vote, were not allowed to exercise their right even though there was a long line in front of the town hall polling station since the afternoon,” a change.org petition, demanding a revote, read. As of Sunday evening, the petition had been signed by more than 8,800 people.

Voter enthusiasm: Indonesians wait to cast their votes at a polling station at the Balai Indonesia multifunction hall in Tokyo on Sunday.(JP/Tertiani Simanjuntak)Voter enthusiasm: Indonesians wait to cast their votes at a polling station at the Balai Indonesia multifunction hall in Tokyo on Sunday.(JP/Tertiani Simanjuntak)

KPU commissioner Ilham Saputra attributed the situation in Sydney to an unexpected influx of unregistered voters.

He added that the polling station at Sydney Town Hall, in particular, could not stay open later because the venue had been rented by the Overseas Elections Committee (PPLN) for a limited time only.

“The building’s rental ended at 6 p.m., so now those who have not voted are asking us for a revote, but the PPLN in Sydney must have a supervisory committee recommendation first,” Ilham told the Post.

The KPU’s PPLN coordinator, Wajid Fauzi, said it was currently working with the Elections Supervisory Agency (Bawaslu), the Sydney PPLN and the Elections Supervisory Committee (Panwaslu) to reopen the polling station in Sydney, which was not the only city where voters faced long lines.

In Tokyo, 90 percent of registered voters in the Kanto region of Japan showed up at a polling station on Sunday, when the closing time was extended.

As of 9 p.m. local time, or two hours after closing time, at least 300 people, most of them students and first-time voters, were still queuing at the Balai Indonesia multifunction hall in Meguro, Tokyo.

“We’ve been in the queue for five hours,” said first-time voter Irma. “Many of us have given up and went home but I don’t want to lose my chance to vote because, like they say, each vote matters.”

According to the head of the PPLN for the Kanto region, Makmur Lubis, 90 percent of the 1,208 voters registered to cast their ballots at the polling station had showed up as of 4 p.m.

It beats the previous record set in the 2014 election when it hovered at around 75 percent. Initially, the committee had lowered their expectations due to a change in the election system and, therefore, it had less time to prepare and disseminate information.

“We were surprised by the huge number of voters who showed up. We think there are many factors at play, with one being that there are only two pairs of candidates, which makes it easier for voters to decide,” said Makmur.

He added that there were around 300 spillovers, including tourists, and around 800 of those have yet to be registered.

Voting for leaders: Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono accompanies his wife, Ani Yudhoyono, who cast her ballot while on her treatment bed at the National University Hospital in Singapore on Sunday.(Courtesy of Anung Anindito)Voting for leaders: Former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono accompanies his wife, Ani Yudhoyono, who cast her ballot while on her treatment bed at the National University Hospital in Singapore on Sunday.(Courtesy of Anung Anindito)

They all fall in the special voter list (DPK).

“We did not have extra ballots, so we had to use unused returned postal ballots to accommodate the special voters.”

In San Francisco, 28-year-old unregistered voter Heriberta Maharestusadya, 28, also stood in a long line to vote.

She, along with hundreds of other potential voters, had to line up for over five hours amid uncertainty about the availability of the remaining ballots.

Heriberta was eventually able to cast her vote, but others were not so lucky.

“There were people who had lined up for hours with me but were then told they had been listed on the DPT and had ballots sent to their homes.

“However, they have yet to receive any ballots. They eventually had to go home without voting.

“The situation [at the polling station] was a bit disorderly with no officials giving us information while we were lining up. The line was very long so I could not see what was happening in the front,” Heriberta said.

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a large number of unregistered voters also turned up on Friday, but the local PPLN said they managed to handle the situation.

“We were able to serve them all. We have a lot of unused ballots here,” Riyadh’s PPLN head, Murjasa M. Solly, said.

The KPU recorded that in the 2014 legislative election, only 464,458 or 22.19 percent of more than 2 million registered overseas voters cast their ballots. Voter turnout was higher for the 2014 presidential election, at 33 percent, but still trailed far behind the overall voter turnout rate of around 73 percent.