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

Asking the Right Questions

25 August 2015

A MARUAH volunteer has written a paper asking what we think is the role of the MP, and how we can use the on-line Hansard (Singapore Parliamentary Reports) to monitor the performance of our MPs in Parliament.

Asking the Right Questions


MARUAH’s responds to Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s comments on the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee

14 July 2015

MEDIA STATEMENT

For immediate use

13 July 2015

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Parliament today (13 July 2015) that he has asked the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee to have smaller Group Representation Constituencies, and to have at least 12 Single Member Constituencies. This committee was formed two months ago. The Committee, Mr Lee said, is in the midst of deliberations and will make recommendations to the Prime Minister when it is ready.

MARUAH would like to raise its objections to this approach as advocated by the Prime Minister.

Read the rest of this entry »


MARUAH – Declaration on Principles of Free and Fair Elections

6 April 2015

Following our forum “The Vote, the Elections and You: What Citizens Need for Free and Fair Elections.” on 4th April 2015, MARUAH has drafted a declaration on Free and Fair Elections in Singapore.

The declaration can be viewed at the link below.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/11bFUTnF_Lj4-M6Gf26H7BGJILCmS38dg7aMv8-vc214/viewform

If you agree with MARUAH’s declaration, please pledge your support by filling up your details. We appreciate your commitment to free and fair elections in Singapore.

Also, please help to share this to your family and friends.


Defending the Legitimacy of Singapore Elections, Part 4: Mayors and the Community Development Councils (CDC)

10 October 2014

MARUAH held a press conference on 9 Oct to highlight 2 research papers, as part of its ongoing project, Defending the Legitimacy of Singapore Elections. This is the third in a series of media and public engagements that MARUAH has arranged, with the first two focusing on citizens’ confidence in the secrecy of the ballot and what it considers are areas for reform in the GRC system.

The second paper deals with the roles Mayors and the Community Development Councils (CDC) play in elections.

MARUAH Mayors Position Paper
MARUAH CDC Mayors PowerpointPresentation


Defending the Legitimacy of Singapore Elections, Part 3: electoral boundaries and CDCs

10 October 2014

MARUAH held a press conference on 9 Oct to highlight 2 research papers, as part of its ongoing project, Defending the Legitimacy of Singapore Elections. This is the third in a series of media and public engagements that MARUAH has arranged, with the first two focusing on citizens’ confidence in the secrecy of the ballot and what it considers are areas for reform in the GRC system.

The first paper deals with the issue of electoral boundaries, mapping out the frequency of the changes made to electoral boundaries and the impact these changes have on the electorate.

MARUAH EBRC Position Paper
MARUAH EBRC Annex 1 pdf
MARUAH EBRC Annex 2 (Timeline of boundary changes)
MARUAH Electoral Boundary Delimitation Powerpoint Presentation

Some media coverage of the event :

https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2014/10/13/maruah-more-transparency-needed-in-electoral-boundary-review/ (TOC)

Group urges more transparency in drawing electoral boundaries (Today)

Independent committee should define electoral boundaries: MARUAH (Yahoo! News)

 


Media coverage on MARUAH position paper on GRC system – Part 2

26 August 2013

Yahoo News Singapore carried MARUAH’s response to comments by A/Prof Eugene Tan and Dr Gillian Koh on MARUAH’s position paper on the GRC system.

http://sg.news.yahoo.com/political-analysts-caution-against-reverting-to-all-smc-system-025003999.html

Also see below for more media coverage
http://yawningbread.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/having-race-requirements-in-elections-is-a-form-of-racial-politics/
http://www.breakfastnetwork.sg/?p=7275

Note:
Part 1 of media coverage here
MARUAH’s position paper on the GRC system here


Media coverage on MARUAH position paper on GRC system

20 August 2013

Both mainstream & social media reported on MARUAH’s position paper on the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system

Channel News Asia
MARUAH Proposes “Ethnic Balancing Contingency System” As Alternative To GRC http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/maruah-proposes-ethnic/782158.html

Read the rest of this entry »


Defending the Legitimacy of Singapore Elections: MARUAH Position Paper on the GRC system

19 August 2013

IMG-20130819-WA0001

MARUAH has published a position paper on the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system in elections in Singapore.

In this position paper, the second in its electoral reform series, MARUAH approaches the issue of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) from the standpoint of the right to representative government as well as free and fair elections.

This paper concurs with the goal of ensuring minority representation in Parliament. However it argues that the GRC system is a poor tool to this end because it creates more impediments to electoral and representational fairness than it solves.

See links below for the documents

  1. powerpoint – MARUAH Position Paper on a fairer alternative to the GRC system
  2. MARUAH Position Paper On The GRC System

Click the link below to see the 1st position paper in our electoral reform series.
https://maruah.org/2013/02/06/defending-the-legitimacy-of-singapore-elections-maruah-position-paper-on-improving-citizen-confidence-in-the-secrecy-of-the-ballot/


Defending the Legitimacy of Singapore Elections: MARUAH Position Paper on Improving Citizen Confidence in the Secrecy of the Ballot

6 February 2013

MARUAH has published a position paper on voter confidence in ballot secrecy during elections in Singapore.

The paper studies the extent of voter confidence in ballot secrecy in Singapore elections and offers way to ensure that secrecy can be enhanced. On the basis of empirical evidence gathered from two surveys, MARUAH is setting out the view that a significant share of Singapore voters – approximately 10% – still cast their vote in fear that their ballots may be traced back to them by the authorities. This erodes the legitimacy of Singapore’s elections, undermines the standing of Parliament and violates the spirit of the 1971 declaration of Commonwealth principles signed by Singapore.

MARUAH sets out recommendations to address this problem so as to defend the perceived integrity of Singapore’s elections and to strengthen political stability by widening social acceptance of electoral outcomes.

MARUAH Position Paper on Improving Citizen Confidence in the Secrecy of the Ballot
ANNEX A – Country comparison
ANNEX B – Photographs