GE2020: Special voting hour for those unwell, on SHN; COVID-19 patients cannot vote

Nicholas Yong
Assistant News Editor
Supporters of various political parties display party flags on Nomination Day on September 1, 2015. (Photo: MOHD FYROL/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Those who are feeling unwell, running a temperature or who are serving Stay-Home Notices (SHN) at home will have a special voting hour set aside for them on Polling Day, said the Elections Department (ELD) on Wednesday (1 July).

In a virtual press briefing, ELD officials said that a special voting hour between 7pm and 8pm has been set aside for these voters at the 1,100 polling stations on 10 July, subject to certain conditions, in order to minimise exposure to other voters.

For example, they should not take public transport, and must go directly to the polling station and return home immediately after. Persons under SHN must also contact the SHN Helpline (6812-5555) before their departure, to inform the authorities of their intention to leave home to vote.

If such voters show up at the polling stations during the regular voting hours from 8am to 7pm, they will be turned away and asked to return between 7pm and 8pm. By law, those who have been issued with a ballot paper have a right to vote, even if they are still in line at the polling station after 8pm.

There will be no temperature screenings at polling stations during this hour, since voters with fever (37.5 degrees Celsius and above) are allowed to vote during the appointed time. Voters who are well are advised to avoid the special voting hour.

Only 60 minutes has been set aside as a large turnout of such voters is not expected.

INFOGRAPHIC: Elections Department

This decision follows consultations with the Director of Medical Services (DMS) from the Ministry of Health, who has granted permission to those on SHN at home and those on a medical certificate for acute respiratory infections to leave their homes to vote during the special voting hour.

Smaller teams of election officials in full personal protective equipment will be at every polling station to manage voters during the special voting hour. Candidates and polling agents are allowed to observe the conduct of polling during this period.

Five polling stations will also be set up at Marina Bay Sands and South Beach, to enable voters serving SHN at these locations to vote, as provided for under the Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Act 2020.

However, COVID-19 patients and those who are quarantined for the virus will not be allowed to vote. The number of voters in these two groups is about 350 as of 30 June.

As of the same date, there are some 360 voters serving an SHN at home, according to ELD. It is unclear if the numbers for these two sets of voters will increase from now till Polling Day.

ELD had previously advised those who are feeling unwell to exercise social responsibility and not turn up to vote. Such individuals can apply to be restored to the Register of Electors without penalty after the GE, the ELD added. No documentary proof will be required - they need only state their reasons for not voting.

On Polling Day

INFOGRAPHIC: Elections Department

Some 2,651,435 individuals, including 6,570 overseas voters, are eligible to vote. Polling hours are between 8am and 8pm, but voters will be given a recommended two-hour voting time-band. Seniors who are 65 and above are also advised to vote in the morning.

Voters must bring along their NRICs or passports, along with their poll card, which will be mailed to them before Polling Day, or ePoll card. The latter can be accessed via the SingPass mobile app.

Voters are advised to check the queue situation at their assigned polling station on VoteQ before setting off to vote. They must scan their NRICs for registration and lower their masks momentarily for election officials to verify their identities.

They are also required to disinfect their hands with sanitiser, and put on disposable gloves before receiving their ballot papers. Voters can use the self-inking ‘X’ pen - which will be disinfected regularly - to mark their choice of vote or bring their own pens.

Meanwhile, non-English voters can tap on VeLDA (Voter Language & Dialect Assistant) to address queries about voting processes.

Counting of votes

As in the 2015 General Election, there will be a sample count - sample size 100 - at the start of the counting process to get an early indication of the possible electoral outcome for that electoral division. This will be released to the media and published on the ELD website, while counting is still in progress.

However, as this is a sample count, the election result could be different, and the public should wait for Returning Officer’s announcement for the election result.

And for the first time, mechanical counting machines will be used to quicken the counting process. The use of such machines was first announced in 2018 - then, ELD said this would make the counting process three times faster, with polling results ready up to an hour earlier than in past elections.

Before the count commences at the counting centres, all counting machines will undergo a pre-counting test by election officials, to ascertain the accuracy of the machines. Candidates and their appointed counting agents present will be invited to witness the conduct of this test.

The first round of counting will be done manually, with ballot papers in bundles of 100. In the second round, these bundles will be verified via counting machines.

Unlike in previous elections, the Returning Officer must carry out a recount if the difference in the number of votes between the top candidate (or group of candidates) and any other candidate (or group of candidates) contesting in the same election, falls within the stipulated limit of 2 per cent or less.

Previously, candidates or their counting agents had to apply for a recount.

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