Singapore GE: No voting for Covid-19 patients and those on quarantine, special voting hour for those on Stay-Home Notice

The Elections Department laid out several special arrangements on July 1) for voters as Singapore goes to the polls amid the Covid-19 pandemic. — TODAY pic
The Elections Department laid out several special arrangements on July 1) for voters as Singapore goes to the polls amid the Covid-19 pandemic. — TODAY pic

SINGAPORE, July 1 — Covid-19 patients, as well as those who are on quarantine, will not be allowed to vote in this General Election (GE) when Polling Day comes on July 10.

There will also be a special voting hour for those on Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at home or who have respiratory problems, while those serving their SHN at designated facilities will be casting their ballot from their rooms.

The Elections Department (ELD) laid out several of these special arrangements today for voters as Singapore goes to the polls amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In an online briefing with the media, ELD also announced several changes to Polling Day proceedings that were unrelated to Covid-19, such as the use of machines to count the votes, as well as having an auto-recount if the difference in the number of votes between contesting candidates in a constituency is 2 per cent or less.

Changes related to Covid-19

Covid-19 patients and those on quarantine orders: They will not be allowed to vote on July 10 so as to minimise their contact with members of the public and reduce risk of community transmission. As of June 30, there are about 350 people in these two groups of voters.

Voters on SHN at home, have a medical certificate due to respiratory problems or have a fever with a temperature of 37.5 deg celsius and above: There will be a special voting hour between 7pm and 8pm set aside for these voters on July 10.

As of 30 June 2020, there were about 360 voters under SHN at home.

The director of medical services at the Ministry of Health will grant special permission for these voters to leave their homes, but only to vote. After that, they have to return home.

If they turn up before 7pm at their polling stations, they will be turned away and asked to return from 7pm onwards.

They should disregard the recommended voting time band allotted to them as indicated on their poll cards, unlike other voters.

They are also advised to travel to their polling stations by walking or using their own private vehicle, and avoid using public transport. Otherwise, they can book a taxi.

They must also contact the SHN helpline, 6812 5555, to inform the authorities that they are leaving home to vote.

Members of the public who are not subjected to SHN and who do not have respiratory problems are advised to avoid heading to their polling stations after 7pm. But if they do turn up after 7pm, they will still be allowed to vote.

During this special voting hour of 7pm to 8pm, there will be a smaller team of election officials manning the polling stations, and they will be donning the full personal protective equipment and sanitising the polling booth and other contact surfaces after each voter is done.

There will also be no temperature screening at the entrance of polling stations as those who have fever will be allowed to enter.

Candidates and polling agents will be allowed to observe how voting is conducted during this special hour. They need not wear full personal protective equipment as they would not come into close contact with voters.

Voters on SHN at designated facilities such as hotels: They will cast their ballot within their own rooms. A polling team will go from room to room, knock on their doors and deliver the ballot paper to the voters.

A voter will have to stand at least 1m inside the room, lower his mask momentarily for the polling team to verify his identity.

The polling team will then read aloud the electoral division, polling district and voter serial number before issuing the ballot paper to him, who will then mark it in private and drop it into the ballot box brought along by the polling team.

The same process is repeated for families in one room.

Candidates and polling agents of the contesting parties for the electoral division which the voter is in may accompany the polling team to observe the proceedings.

The ELD has also set aside five special polling stations, four at Marina Bay Sands and one at JW Marriott Hotel.

Before the start of polls, the polling team, candidates and polling agents can meet at these special polling stations so that the polling team can present the candidates and polling agents a copy of the SHN voter register and show them that the ballot boxes are empty, before sealing them and going to the rooms of the voters.

Before the polls start at 7am, the polling team will show to candidates and polling agents that the ballot box is empty before sealing it. A copy of the voter register for those on SHN at designated facilities will also be provided.

When polls are closed, the polling team will seal both slits of the ballot box and invite candidates and polling agents that are present to sign or affix their own seals on the ballot box.

The special polling team will then deliver the sealed ballot boxes to the centralised counting centre for counting, a procedure similar to how overseas votes are counted.

The rest of the voters: They should head to their polling station within the two-hour time band they were given. Those aged 65 years old and above are encouraged to vote in the morning.

Polling day proceedings

Voters will receive a poll card before polling day which states their allotted time-bands. Voters can also access this poll card electronically through SingPass mobile.

They are also encouraged to check out the queue situation of their polling station at the VoteQ website before heading down.

As there will be temperature screening at the entrance of polling stations, those found to have a fever running 37.5 deg celsius and above will not be allowed to enter. They will be asked to return during the special voting hour instead.

After entering, voters will have to scan their own identification card to register themselves. They also need to lower their masks momentarily for the election official to verify their identity.

Voters are encouraged to stay 1m away from each other. They should also disinfect their hands with the sanitiser provided and put on disposable gloves before receiving their ballot papers.

Voters can bring their own pen or use those provided to cast their votes.

Unlike previous GEs, ELD said today that only markings within the demarcated area beside the candidate or group of candidates will be considered. Marks made outside the demarcated area, even if it is a statement professing their support of a political party, will be disregarded.

Previously, these markings outside the demarcated areas would be counted as valid votes if the intention of the markings are very clear.

When the polls are closed at 8pm, the counting of votes would then start.

Similar to previous GEs, the first round of counting will be done manually, and the results of a sample count will be released to the public. The ballot papers will be faced upwards to reflect the voters’ choice, and then bundled into 100 piece-piles and tied with a rubber band.

Mechanical counting machines, however, will be used for the second count to speed up the counting process.

Before it is used, the machines will be tested by election officials to ensure its accuracy, and candidates and counting agents will witness the test.

Once the machine has passed the test, it will have a serial number, which will then be used to count the ballot papers in the second round.

The bundle of 100 ballot papers would then be verified through the counting machine. A second rubber band will then be tied around the bundle to indicate it has been through the second round of counting.

Unlike in previous GEs, the Returning Officer will automatically call for a recount of the votes if the difference between contesting candidates is 2 per cent or less.

Previously, a candidate had to request for such a recount. — TODAY

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