MARUAH suggestions to improve polling process

27 August 2015
This letter was published in The Online Citizen on 24 August 2015 under the title “Sampling check results should be announced to parties for transparency

TOC has reported that the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) sent a letter to the Elections Department (ELD) asking for clarification on the procedures for admittance of candidates’ agents to polling stations and counting centres, and on election advertising. Given that election administration is not part of the day-to-day jobs of the civil servants selected as elections officials, it is understandable that there may have been a lack of understanding of some of the procedures despite ELD’s efforts to train the elections officials. In their reply to a previous letter from the SDP, ELD acknowledged that elections officials had not been consistent during the 2011 General Elections in certain areas. To its’ credit, ELD subsequently released guides for the Presidential Election and by-elections describing polling and counting procedures, including the rules for admittance and re-admittance of candidates’ agents. These guides can be used as a basis for candidates to train their volunteers to understand their rights and responsibilities as polling agents or counting agents.
Overseas best practice
Another frequent point of contention during elections is the interpretation of ballots where the voter’s intention is unclear. In the UK, the Electoral Commission publishes guidance for Returning Officers on adjudicating doubtful ballots. In Singapore as in the UK, the decision of the Assistant Returning Officer (ARO) on the ground is final. However, it would be useful for ELD to publish the training materials that it uses to train AROs so that all counting agents would be aware of the criteria used by AROs in deciding whether to accept or reject uncertain ballot papers.
Sampling Check
A unique feature of the counting process in Singapore elections is the “sampling check”. As explained in the Guide for Counting Agents
5.16 During the counting process, the ARO will conduct a sampling check to obtain a sample of the possible electoral outcome for that counting place, for the purpose of checking against the result of count for that counting place.
This sampling check is not specifically mentioned in the Parliamentary Elections Act but from the description in the Guide for Counting Agents, it appears that it is used by ELD to predict the result of the election early in the counting process. From my observations as a counting agent in past elections, the check is performed by the ARO or his assistants taking a sample of 100 ballot papers immediately after the mixing of the ballots and counting the number of votes for each candidate within that sample.
In developing democracies, “Quick Counts” are estimates of the overall result of an election based on the actual results (not exit polls) at a sample of polling stations. In large underdeveloped countries, compilation of results by the central government may be problematic even though the count at local level is monitored by elections observers. Quick counts thus help to ensure the reliability of official results which may not be available for some time after the election. For example, in the Presidential Elections in Indonesia last year, quick counts showed that President Jokowi had won the election within days of the election even though final results were not released until two weeks later.
Transparency
In the case of Singapore, the sampling check should be redundant, considering that final election results have always been released within hours of close of polls, and the entire counting process is conducted by ELD’s own elections officials observed by candidates’ counting agents. Nonetheless, if ELD still believes that the sampling check is necessary, the ARO should announce the results of the sampling check over the table for the sake of transparency at the time that the check is performed.
Ngiam Shih Tung
MARUAH Election Watch

MSF & PA reply to MARUAH forum letter

30 July 2015

The Ministry of Social and Family Development, and People’s Association, replied to MARUAH’s letter to Straits Times forum.

Their reply below.
http://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/disbursement-of-comcare-funds-msf-pa-reply

Disbursement of ComCare funds: MSF, PA reply
We thank Ms Braema Mathi, president of Maruah, for her letter (“Examination of PA’s structure needed to ensure accountability“; last Friday).

Read the rest of this entry »


Letter to ST forum – Look into the role of the PA

24 July 2015

MARUAH wrote a letter to the Straits Times forum, regarding lapses found by the Auditor-General’s Office, specifically the errors and omissions in the disbursement of ComCare funds by some Citizens Consultative Committees (CCCs).

The letter can be found at the link below.

http://www.straitstimes.com/forum/letters-in-print/examination-of-pas-structure-needed-to-ensure-accountability

Examination of PA’s structure needed to ensure accountability
Maruah is disturbed by some of the findings in the Auditor-General’s Office (AGO) report, specifically on the People’s Association (“Auditor-General flags conflicts of interest”; July 16). Read the rest of this entry »


Letter on Speakers Corner

30 September 2014

This letter was sent to the ST Forum page by MARUAH but was not published.

28th September 2014
To:
The Forum Page Editor
The Straits Times

Dear Sir,
MARUAH, a human rights organisation, refers to the story “Chaos at Hong Lim Charity Carnival” ( ST, 28th September, 2014). We are writing to ask two questions that are puzzling us on processes and the rights of our citizens. Read the rest of this entry »


MARUAH condemns the actions of ISIS

13 September 2014

This letter was sent to ST Forum on 5 Sep 2014, but was not published.

The Forum Page Editor
The Straits Times

Dear Sir

MARUAH, a human rights organization, refers to the article Obama Vows to Degrade and Destroy ISIS Militants (ST September 4, 2014) and is deeply worried about ISIS’s escalating use of fear tactics to promote its extremist agenda. The brutal beheadings of journalists Mr Steven Sotloff and Mr James Foley are acts that shock the conscience of mankind. Our deepest condolences to the families of the journalists and the people of America.

ISIS has sought to market that shock and cheapen our conscience by filming and sharing the beheadings. These videos were intended to be seen and, of course, reported. The journalist compatriots of Steven Sotloff and James Foley, no doubt, have a duty to report the facts of the beheadings, despite the ethical implications of their reports on violence and turmoil.

After James Foley’s death, the New York Post ran a picture of his beheading and a sensationalist headline as its front page story. New York Post was roundly condemned not just by concerned citizens but by other newspapers as well.

Such sensationalist spectacles not only create an audience for ISIS but also belittle the memory of journalists who are unjustly murdered. If we are to be humane and respect the memory of the dead, we have to extend the right to privacy and freedom from attacks upon one’s honour – ensconced in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – to them as well.

The Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova, in line with Resolution 29 “Condemnation of Violence Against Journalists” spoke out against ISIS’s murder of Steven Sotloff. Similarly, United States Secretary of State, John Kerry, has sought to hold ISIS accountable “no matter how long it takes.”

We, as citizens from all over the world, can do our part in curbing the influence of ISIS by refusing to view and share the exploitative videos. When we view and share these videos, whether intentionally or not, we validate the terror tactics of ISIS.

Let us not feed a theatre of cruelty.

MARUAH would like to state categorically that ISIS as an organization deserves our condemnation and these acts of theirs to resolve deep-seated issues of beliefs and faiths are cheap, sensational, exploitative, cruel, barbaric and cowardly. There is no heroism here.

Mr Simon Vincent,
Member, Youth Group
MARUAH


TODAY Voices – letter on HPB sexuality FAQs

13 February 2014

TODAY has published MARUAH’s forum letter on the Health Promotion Board (HPB) sexuality FAQs.

“MARUAH, as a human rights group, is disturbed that the Health Promotion Board (HPB) amended its FAQ on sexuality because of pressure from faith-based groups and others who oppose discussions on sexual orientation.”

Read the full letter below.
http://www.todayonline.com/voices/faq-educational-tool-should-remain-its-original-form


MARUAH reply to Ministry of Law on repatriations

23 December 2013

MARUAH first wrote to TODAY Voices regarding repatriations relating to Little India riot:
http://www.todayonline.com/voices/due-process-should-not-be-subordinated-expediency

The Ministry of Law replied
(“Singapore’s legal system is firm, just and fair” Ms Praveen Randhawa, Press Secretary to the Ministry for Law, TODAY, Dec 21, 2013):
http://www.todayonline.com/voices/singapores-legal-system-firm-just-and-fair?singlepage=true

Our response to the Ministry of Law is set out below:
The Government’s position, as articulated by Ms Randhawa, is essentially that foreigners are allowed into and to remain in Singapore at the Government’s pleasure, and that they have no right to challenge the Government’s decision on whether they can stay or should leave. We believe that many Singaporeans would respectfully disagree as we do believe that everyone – Singaporean or foreigner – should be given due process to justice and fairness.

Due process fundamentally refers to a requirement that the state respects all the legal rights of a person, in particular when seeking to sanction or penalise that person. The Government argues that foreigners being subject to repatriation are not entitled to due process. This may be the technical position under Singapore law today. But is it the right position for a society that upholds the rule of law? Read the rest of this entry »


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