Uniting to Ensure Voters Turn Up

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Soon after the May 9 polling date was announced yesterday, the ‘rakyat’ took to social media on their plans and challenges to return to their hometowns to vote.

  • Carpooling, funding aid
  • Companies announce paid leave, incentives for staff to go home and vote

Some are taking two or three days off, with Facebook user Reid Lee having to take leave from work for the whole week so he could vote, The Star reported.

Another Facebook user, Rosbi Che Ali, said she was willing to endure the long journey from Johor Baru to her hometown in Kelantan to exercise her right to vote.

Jaswinder Kaur Kler stated that airfares from Sandakan to Kota Kinabalu increased from RM118 to RM198 within 10 minutes after the announcement by the Election Commission.

“Bought the ticket anyway,” she wrote.

On Twitter, @yusurisan said he bought his air ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Alor Setar right after the announcement, although the cost was the same as flying overseas.

User @iamkabin wrote, “Ticket prices soaring after the announcement of polling day.

“I’ll walk home to vote

if I have to!”

Apart from that, some Twitter users were even offering to help others bear some of the travel cost to return home for the polls.

Tweeting on the account @LonTugi, Iggy said she could not afford a return ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Ranau, Sabah – which would cost her about RM700.

“I can’t afford to do so…no reduction in flight tickets. Unlike 2013 poll, back then I only spent less than RM300 for my son and myself,” she said.

After Iggy’s tweet was retweeted by Malay Mail’s digital editor Joe Lee on his account @klubbkiddkl, novelist Hanna Alkaf replied from her account @yesitshanna to offer Iggy aid.

Since then, Lee and the #PulangMengundi (Malay for “return to vote”) hashtag he created has helped many donors and those who could not afford tickets to return home connect with each other.

“#PulangMengundi as of 10pm has helped at least a few dozen Malaysians to return home, and it’s testimony that Malaysians do take their responsibility and privilege to vote seriously,” Lee told the Malay Mail last night.

“Numerous sponsors have also contacted me, and the advice to all good samaritans who want to join in the drive, look through the hashtag for those you can help.

“#PulangMengundi is not backed by any party or NGO and made up entirely of the Malaysian Twitter-verse. Who says social media is toxic?” he added.

Hanna herself has been linking donors who wish to donate directly with the ones who needed it the most, while other Twitter users such as Elida Bustaman (@mokciknab), Alzari ‘Joey’ Mahshar (@pualdidan), and @bumilangit have come together to create a fund for the same purpose.

By last night, the hashtag has become Malaysia’s number one trending topic, as many more offered to help.

Another hashtag, #CarpoolGE14 was also started yesterday by writer Nizam Bakeri, to match users who wish to carpool home together during the election period.

On Facebook, carpooling group Jom Balik Undi has already spread like wildfire with the same objective of helping Malaysians to ‘balik kampung’ and vote.

Started a fortnight ago by user Sandra Tang, it has now nearly 11,000 members.

Just yesterday alone, it had over 200 posts of voters offering rides and seeking each other.

Izzah Azura also took to Facebook to help others by setting up a crowdfunding platform for those could not afford to balik kampung’ to vote.

Meanwhile, several firms have announced paid leave for its staff to go vote, while some are even paying for their employees’ tickets.

Publishing group Karangkraf Sdn Bhd said its staff will get one day off, while award-winning public relations company Shekhinah PR not only gave its employees two days off but will also pay for petrol and toll charges for all employees returning to their hometowns to vote.

The move has been met with praise on social media.

A construction material company based in Shah Alam will give its Sabahan and Sarawakian workers three days’ paid leave, complete with air ticket and allowance, to fly home to vote.

Marble Emporium Sdn Bhd owner Sim Yen Peng, 43, said he was doing this as “voting is a responsibility”.

He hoped that his gesture would encourage other companies in the peninsula with such workers to do the same.

“If employers can spend on compulsory annual return tickets for their foreign workers, why can’t the same be done for our Sabahan and Sarawakian workers once every five years for the general election?” Sim said yesterday.

He said 11 of his workers from Sabah and Sarawak will get three days off from May 7 to May 9, free return air tickets and RM300 travel allowance each, with expenses amounting to about RM1,000 per worker.

The announcement posted on the company’s Facebook page yesterday went viral, with many people commending the company which supplies natural marbles and granite across Malaysia.

FB user Choon Hoe said the company’s actions should set an example for other firms in the country.

“Really salute your company. You have set a very good example for many big firms out there.”