SDP: Transportation of ballot boxes open to serious questions

May 26, 2011
Singapore Democrats

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Singapore Democrats

The SDP had written to the Elections Department and queried the inconsistencies regarding the rules and regulations of polling procedures. Different presiding officers seemed to apply the rules differently during the course of Polling Day.

The Elections Department (ELD) replied to clarify the rules which, in effect, only made matters more confusing. It asked for more information about the incidents and promised to “look into them further.”

The Singapore Democrats continue to ask questions of the ELD because inconsistently applied rules create confusion and raise questions about the entire polling process and, hence, results.

Now that GE2011 is behind us, it is tempting to forget about all that happened and happened wrongly. However, we must continue to scrutinise the ELD’s practices and procedures. This is especially important for future elections – the next one being just a few months away.

Volunteers, political parties indeed all citizens must hold the ELD to a high standard of transparency and fair-play.

In our on-going correspondence with the ELD, we provide the names and places where we spotted discrepancies and inconsistencies that need to be addressed.

One that needs particularly urgent attention is the transportation of the ballot boxes to the counting centres. Our polling agents reported that when a bus came to pick up the ballot boxes at their polling station, there were already ballot boxes on board. We presume that these were boxes that were picked up from another polling station.

Our polling agents wanted to verify this by checking those boxes. Unfortunately they were prevented from doing so. How does one ensure that the boxes being transported are indeed the ones that were used for polling during the day from another polling station?
 

26 May 2011

Ms Goh Jing Xian
Manager (Public Education & Training)
Elections Department, Prime Minister’s Office

Dear Ms Goh,

We thank you for your reply.

Before I give you the names of the places where we encountered problems, I wish to bring to your attention another observation.

Our polling agents stationed at Beacon Primary School said that when the bus arrived to pick up the ballot boxes, they noticed that there were already ballot boxes on board. We presume that these were ballot boxes that were picked up from another polling station.

Our polling agents wanted to verify this by checking those boxes. Unfortunately they were prevented from doing so. How does one ensure that the boxes being transported are indeed the ones that were used for polling during the day from another polling station?

With regards to the disallowance of candidates into the polling stations, we wish to bring to your attention that at the Hwa Chong Institution, Bukit Timah Primary School, and Raffles Girls Primary School our Holland-Bukit Timah GRC candidates were refused entry.

This is in contravention of the Parliamentary Elections Act which, as you say, states that “candidates contesting at the election in a constituency and their authorised polling agents may enter a polling station during the poll in that constituency.”

With reference to food being consumed inside the polling stations, we wish to inform you that across the polling stations at the Sembawang and Holland-Bukit GRCs, we were allowed to deliver meals to our polling agents.

However, at around 5pm when we were getting dinner for our polling agents at several polling stations across the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, we were suddenly prevented from going into the polling stations to handover the food. This was not the case for the polling stations in the other constituencies.

We also note that in your letter you state that: “Polling agents are allowed to enter the polling station on condition that the election agent has informed the presiding officers of the names of the polling agents who are to be stationed at the polling station.”

We were told the day before by ELD officials that we did not have to inform the presiding officers the names of our polling agents before they could enter the polling stations. All they needed to do was to present the oath of secrecy form and the letter of appointment. Hence, we did not prepare any list.

Yet, without these lists our polling agents were allowed entry into all the polling stations except for one.

You also say that, “Each time a candidate’s polling agent seeks entry to the polling station during the day, the presiding officer will ask to check the letter of appointment and to keep the oath of secrecy form.”

Apparently this is not the case as the polling stations at our Sembawang GRC did not insist on this procedure. Our polling agents at the Beascon Primary School at the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was also not required to hand in the oath of secrecy form each time they entered the station.

Finally, the schedule provided to us clearly stated that the main counting centre for the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was at the Zhenghua Secondary School. However, our candidates were told by the presiding officer there that the Zhenghua school was not the main counting centre. Asked where it was, your officials said that they did not know.

These inconsistencies make the polling monitoring process extremely unsettling and raise many questions about the polling process itself. We hope you will look into them and provide us with clarifications.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party

18 May 2011

Dear Mr Chee,

We refer to your email to the Returning Officer dated 12 May 2011 and would like to make some clarifications.

The Parliamentary Elections Act states that candidates contesting at the election in a constituency and their authorised polling agents may enter a polling station during the poll in that constituency.  Polling agents are allowed to enter the polling station on condition that the election agent has informed the presiding officers of the names of the polling agents who are to be stationed at the polling station.  For each polling place within the polling station, there can be one polling agent per candidate (or group of candidates in the case of a Group Representation Constituency). If polling agents are to change in the day, all the new or substitute names have to be provided to the presiding officer.

Every polling agent must therefore produce a duly completed and signed Oath of Secrecy with Letter of Appointment of Polling Agent Form (EC18/EC161) to the presiding officer at the main entrance before entering the polling station.  After checking, the presiding officer will keep the form.  Each time a candidate’s polling agent seeks entry to the polling station during the day, the presiding officer will ask to check the letter of appointment and to keep the oath of secrecy form.  (A similar arrangement applies for counting agents.)  This is because election officials at the entrance to polling stations may be rotated during the day and therefore cannot recognise polling agents earlier admitted.  Candidates and their election agents have been given multiple forms of EC18/EC161 to use.

At the polling stations, given Singapore’s hot climate, bottled water is provided for candidates and their polling agents.  However, consumption of food and other beverages is not allowed within the polling place.  This is to minimize the risk of damage to ballot papers and to keep the limited space within the polling station clean.  Candidates and their agents may however take their meals outside the polling stations.

We note the general feedback provided and would welcome any further specific feedback on where and when the incidents occurred so that we can look into them further.

Your email also referred to the voters who did not turn up to vote.  You may wish to refer to the Statements of Poll gazetted on 12 May 2011 which contains relevant information on the number of votes cast.

Yours faithfully,

GOH JING XIAN (MS)
Manager (Public Education & Training)
Elections Department, Prime Minister’s Office