Elections Department to tighten ballot box handling

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Chan Chun Sing
Chan Chun Sing
Chan Chun Sing
Chan Chun Sing

The Elections Department (ED) will look into how to tighten the handling and disposal of uncontrolled items such as ballot boxes during the electoral process, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said in parliament today.

He was responding to a question from Workers’ Party MP, Pritam Singh, following the discovery of five empty ballot boxes at a school in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC  last month. The boxes were used for the 2011 presidential election.

But there appeared to have been no lapse in electoral procedure or breach of the law, the minister said, because after the close of polling, the ballots are transferred into different boxes which are sealed and escorted to counting centres, and the empty boxes left behind cease to be considered “controlled items”.,

Mr Pritam Singh and Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alex Yam asked if the empty ballot boxes should be re-classified as “controlled items” and incinerated six months after the election together with the ballots, No, said the minister, that was not necessary.

Contractors were expected to collect and dispose of the empty boxes and other elections paraphernalia left at the polling stations, the minister added.

However, a check on 164 schools turned up empty boxes at five schools.

Maruah concerned

“Maruah notes with concern that discarded ballot boxes have been found,” said Braema Mathi, Maruah president, in a statement. “This seems to suggest some lapse in proper electoral procedures. We note that the Elections Department has already filed a police report.”

She added: “This is an unfortunate incident which goes beyond just a procedural lapse. We say that this form of a lapse will play up the fears Singaporeans have over ballots being potentially traceable. Maruah’s research indicates that approximately 10 per cent of Singapore’s electorate still cast their votes with a fear that their ballots could be traced by the authorities and their voting behaviour held against them.

Maruah firmly believes that our votes are secret.

But we also ask for corrective measures to be put in place.  These are: to remove the serial numbers on ballotpapers and replace them with undifferentiated watermarks; cease the practice of writing the ballot serial number next to the voter’s name on the electoral roll at the polling station; and set up an independent, non-partisan committee to review the issue of the perceived lack of secrecy of the ballot.

It is the right of a citizen to free and fair elections which includes removing any element of voting in fear. The non-discarded ballot boxes, in this instance, do little to remove this fear.”