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5:00pm: The police officer on duty shuts the gate to the school, marking the end of the voting period. It’s been a relatively smooth process here in Seremban.
Now the counting of votes begins, and the long wait for the results.
4:55pm: One of the PH volunteers begins to pack up their traffic cones and flags. Any voters who’ve arrived in the past half an hour have come out of the polling station, having made it in time to vote.
There are conflicting reports as to directives given by the head of the Election Commission; some news outlets report him saying that voters will still be allowed to cast votes as long as they are within the polling station compounds by 5pm. Others quote him as saying that 5pm is the cutoff point, regardless of whether voters are in the compound or not.
4:35pm: Further up the road, the Pakatan Harapan volunteers sit in their tent.
Voters are still trickling into the polling station.
4:25pm: Barisan National volunteers are still manning their tent near the polling station.
4:05pm: After the oppressive heat, there’s a brief shower. It lasts for twenty minutes before the sun comes out again. There are still around twenty or so people strolling in to vote.
“We had to wait quite a bit,” exclaim two sisters as they walk out of the school gates. “Almost half an hour!”
“I’ve heard that people waited three to four hours in Kuala Lumpur,” I tell them.
“Yah, that’s terrible! Seremban is still not too bad. Pretty smooth here.”
12pm: The temperature feels like 41˚C now. An ice cream seller waits patiently outside the school gates.
11:25am: Although the huge crowd waiting at the barong agents in the school assembly ground has cleared up—there were conflicting instructions as to whether voters needed to line up to receive a slip with their number, or go straight to their saluran—there are still long lines of people waiting in the heat.
“Can we wear shorts?”, asks a young man.
“Yes, there’s no dress code,” someone tells him.
“But they turned away an uncle who was wearing shorts—look!” He pulls up a Facebook post on his phone. One of my friends has also sent me a WhatsApp message about a similar incident. The Election Commission clarified earlier that there’s no dress code, despite circulating reports to the contrary, but most of the voters in line are wearing long pants to be safe.
10:50am: Everybody takes indelible ink finger selfies when they exit the polling station.
10:45am: Both ballot boxes are already quite full for this channel. Another clerk uses a wooden ruler to push the existing ballot papers in.
10:43am: There’s one blue ballpoint pen in the voting booth and nothing else, apart from instructions on how to mark the ballot. The order of the candidates’ parties differs on the state and parliamentary ballot, so I have to read the papers twice to be absolutely sure who I’m voting for.
10:40am: The first clerk checks my name and identity card number against the register. The second clerk dips my finger into the well of indelible ink, after which the third clerk uses a ruler to tear off both state and parliamentary ballots from a book, which he folds into a quarter before handing it to me.
10:35am: I’m almost at the door of the classroom where my saluran (channel) is voting.
“No photographs allowed inside,” I hear people reminding each other. Everyone sobers up as they approach the classroom, identity cards in hand.
10:10am: Most people are watching videos on their mobile phones or texting their friends in other polling stations. Any available chair or surface that can be sat on is immediately filled.
9:30am: There’s some confusion over how to line up outside the classrooms for each saluran (channel); a police officer calmly directs voters. It’s really stuffy—the temperature feels like 36°C, according to weather.com—but the fans in the corridors aren’t turned on.
“Eh can you plug that in and on it?” a man asks the ladies standing next to some power outlets. Everyone watches the fans in anticipation but they don’t whirr to life.
“Sorry bro!” someone else calls across the corridor.
9am: The sun is already out in full force as people stream into the polling station, SJK(C) Sin Hua.
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