The proposed amendment to the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA) regarding ballot boxes announced last week raises troubling questions.
The amendment provides for the Elections Department (ELD) to disregard the vote count for a polling station if the votes in a sealed ballot box is lost or destroyed before the ballots are counted. But if the officials consider the number of votes in the particular polling station enough to change the final result for that constituency, a fresh poll can be called.
Why is this amendment being introduced and why is it being done now? Have ballot boxes been lost or destroyed in the past? Can the ELD tell the public whether this has happened in the past?
If the answer is no, then why propose to fix something when it is not broken? Is the PAP anticipating a problem? It is troubling that the Government does not offer any explanation why it is changing the law regarding this matter.
If the ELD is concerned about lost or destroyed boxes due to transfer from polling stations to counting stations, there is an easy solution: Count the votes at the polling stations.
Such a practice is done in many countries. When the polling is closed, election officials open the boxes at the polling stations in front of party representatives as well as the public who may be gathered to witness the process.
At the end of the count, the final tally is announced, recorded and transmitted to the Elections Department. With advancement in communications technology, such a process can be done expeditiously, efficiently and, most important, transparently.
The final result is announced when all the polling stations in that constituency report their results.
Such a process by-passes the PAP’s concern about boxes being lost or destroyed. It also saves manpower and other resources in having to transport the boxes from one place to another.
If the PAP really wants to make the election system fair and transparent, it should first and foremost take the ELD out from under the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and put it under the supervision of an independent elections commission. This would be much more meaningful than tweaks to the processes for reasons that remain unclear. This would bring Singapore in line with international best practices.