Electronic attendance-taking at polls

28 May 2017

The Straits Times reported on May 20, 2017 that the Elections Department plans to introduce electronic registration of voters at polling stations during elections. As this potentially affects the ability of polling agents to monitor the polling process, MARUAH wrote a letter to the editor to raise our concerns and to urge the Elections Department to provide advance notice of any changes, and to take public feedback into account before making any changes.

Don’t trade security for convenience (Straits Times, May 25, 2017)

The Elections Department recently revealed that it was testing a system that will electronically register voters during elections (Elections Dept to pilot electronic voter registration; May 20).

Thanks to the efforts of the civil service, Singapore has a very efficient and fuss-free polling process, without problems which even some well-established democracies face – long queues, voter fraud and other electoral misconduct.

However, there is always a trade-off between security and efficiency.

Elections officials must guard against not just the risk of external interference but also the misconduct of voters and candidates.

To ensure that a person is entitled to vote and to prevent him or her from voting more than once, presiding officers check the electoral register and physically mark against the name of the voter.

Crucially, this is done within earshot of polling agents appointed by candidates so that the polling agents may also check against their own copies of the electoral register.

Whether registration is done electronically or manually, it is imperative that polling agents have an independent means of verifying a voter’s eligibility and of preventing plural voting.

The goal of reducing waiting time is laudable but this cannot be allowed to undermine the safeguards in our system against electoral fraud.

We urge the Elections Department to publicise any proposed changes to voting procedures far in advance of implementation and to take feedback from the public, political parties and other stakeholders into account before making any changes.

Ngiam Shih Tung
Vice-President
Maruah

The Elections Department replied to the letter two days later, saying that the electronic system was only for registration of attendance, and not for issuance of ballot papers. They also said that they would hold roadshows to collect feedback before implementation.

No sacrificing voting security for convenience (Straits Times, May 27, 2017)

We thank Mr Ngiam Shih Tung for his letter (Don’t trade security for convenience; May 25).

The current registration procedure at a Polling Station requires an election official to manually search for and strike off the voter’s name from the hard copy of the Polling Station Register (PSR).

The proposed eRegistration procedure registers a voter by electronically scanning his identity card and marking his record in the electronic copy of the PSR.

This will allow registration to be done in a shorter time, and reduce waiting time for voters. The electronic registration system will also alert the election official if an individual not eligible to vote turns up to register, or if a voter who registered earlier turns up again to register.

After a voter has been registered in the proposed new system, he will proceed to a different counter to be issued with a ballot paper.

During the issuance of the ballot paper, election officials will continue to read out the name and serial number of the voter in the PSR.

Polling agents will be seated within earshot of these counters to enable them to check against their own copies of the PSR, as per existing practice.

The Elections Department (ELD) plans to pilot eRegistration on a small scale first. Ahead of the pilot, we will conduct roadshows to familiarise voters involved in the pilot with the new registration procedure.

We will take into account feedback from the roadshows before we commence with the pilot. We will also review the lessons from the pilot before assessing the approach for full implementation.

Security will not be traded off for the sake of convenience. The ELD is fully committed to ensuring the integrity of voting procedures and of the entire electoral process.

Ang Boon Chin

Deputy Head (Operations)
Elections Department

MARUAH Election Watch has been monitoring Parliamentary and Presidental elections in Singapore since 2011 and has published several position papers on electoral issues such as Group Representation Constituencies(GRCs) and constituency boundaries  in Singapore. We will continue to monitor issues affecting Singaporeans’ right to free and fair elections.


MARUAH statement on conduct at Bukit Batok By-Election

4 May 2016

We refer to recent reports on the comments made by the ruling party, the People’s Action Party (PAP) and the opposition party, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), during the campaign of the by-election in Bukit Batok.

Parts of the campaign are currently degenerating into a sloganeering on the character of Dr Chee Soon Juan, the SDP candidate. This looms ominously as the statements are made by ruling party members in the name of the Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong; the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu and the Speaker of Parliament, Halimah Yacob.

As election campaign watchers, MARUAH, a human rights group, would like to put on record that this is a disappointing approach taken on by the ruling party. We cite our research in 2011 that showed how media and public figures had conducted themselves at the 2011 General Elections. At the 2013 by-election in Punggol East it did not deteriorate to the current extent, though the opposition candidates were many and the PAP candidate also made some distracting statements that had some of us scratching our heads. In the 2015 hustings, there was improvement by all political parties. The views on candidates were taken up by citizens and in many instances over social media. All revealing a healthier engagement by citizens even as one acknowledges there will be partisan comments. We say it is part of our growth into a democracy.

In this Bukit Batok by-election, however, there seems to be a targeted barrage on Dr Chee’s past behaviour. In politics there are many candidates who will be judged at the ballot box and later as MPs. We ask that this sloganeering be stopped, as it is not in good taste to ensuring that we develop fair, free and democratic election processes.

We also raise attention to Singapore’s Parliamentary Elections Act, Section 59 and Section 61(d) which asks of all – including campaign leaders and leaders of all political parties– to act in a manner that is fair to all election candidates. In addition in the Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Code on Free and Fair Elections, it is also clear that all parties need to ensure that the election is conducted in a fair and democratic manner.

In conclusion MARUAH asks again for an Independent Elections Commission, not one under the Prime Minister’s Office.


Event report – Post-Elections forum – What’s at Stake?

21 September 2015

AlEiJFUDq-srgttjxZzWvruvWaZm4bA1m1CJgz4Z9L79

MARUAH organised a public forum on September 19th to share thoughts and perspectives on the General Elections 2015 (GE2015) that took place on September 11th, 2015. The speakers were:-
Mr Alex Au, blogger and activist
Dr Derek Da Cunha, political analyst, author and independent researcher;
Dr Jack Lee, law academic with research interest in Constitutional Law;
Mr Rafiz Hapipi, youth counsellor and researcher, and MARUAH member;
Mr Sudhir Vadaketh, author and blogger;
Mr Terry Xu, editor of The Online Citizen

The speakers were experts who had been watching the General Elections and commenting on the process from one GE to the next. Read the rest of this entry »


MARUAH 2015 pre-election survey on voter concerns

13 September 2015

MARUAH conducted an online survey on issues that voters were concerned about, from Aug 29 to Sep 9. Links to the survey were disseminated by electronic media (email, website and Facebook) and a total of 132 responses were received. Summary results are presented in MARUAH pre-election survey results.


[change of venue] Post-elections forum – What’s at Stake? – 19 Sep 2015

10 September 2015

[17 Sep update: Please note change of venue & timing]

A team of experts discuss & analyse the election results, and what it means for us.

  • Mr Alex Au, Blogger
  • Dr Derek Da Cunha, Political Analyst and Author
  • Dr Jack Lee, Law lecturer
  • Mr Rafiz Hapipi, MARUAH Election Watch
  • Mr Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh, Author and Blogger

The panel discussion will be moderated by MARUAH. We are also hoping for an interactive debate on the issue of General Elections in Singapore and would like to make some key recommendations.

Come join our forum to discuss these issues

Date: 19 Sep 2015
Time: 3pm – 7pm
Venue: 9 Penang Road, #13-03 Park Mall [map]

Register at the link below
https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1NKwbub9kOhMK58CvaP1GgL3bCPY6EYfRVz2mvFaThlM/viewform


Summary on the stance of political parties on issues

9 September 2015

MARUAH recently wrote letters to political parties contesting the 2015 General Elections, to ask for their stance on various human rights issues.

As the responses were not forthcoming, MARUAH reviewed their stance using their election manifestos.

Below is the summary of the comparison. You can also click here for a PDF version of the file.

maruah review of manifestos


Apolitical Club Guide to Elections in Singapore

8 September 2015

The SMU Apolitical Club has released “A Guide to General Elections in Singapore”. Not to worry if you haven’t been able to get your hands on this very informative booklet. It’s freely available for download from their website. Excellent work on the part of the students and other members of the SMU community.