The Elections Department (ELD) has unveiled new measures to ensure a safe election amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest slate of measures, which pertain to polling and nominating procedures, includes provisions allowing candidates to file nomination papers digitally instead of physically going to the ELD building to reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Last month, the Government passed the COVID-19 Special Arrangements Bill in Parliament, that would allow special measures to protect voters and candidates in the event that an election is held during the pandemic. Among other measures, the bill will allow unwell candidates to authorise a representative to file nomination papers on their behalf.
In a virtual press briefing that was held on Monday (8 June), the ELD provided more temporary measures for candidates, including a rule that assentors who are unwell will not be able to enter the Nomination Centre and a new provision, allowing candidates to file nomination papers digitally.
The authority, which is under the Prime Minister’s Office, said: “Given the COVID-19 situation, candidates and their election agents are strongly encouraged to use ELD’s expanded digital services to prepare the necessary documents required for Nomination.
“The system will be available for use once the Writ of Election is issued. Those who prefer to submit forms in hard copy can continue to do so, but they should download and print the forms from the ELD website instead of obtaining the forms in person at ELD.”
The ELD also announced new safety measures for Nomination Day. All persons who are present at the Nomination Centre must undergo temperature screening and will have to use the SafeEntry app to check in and out for contact tracing purposes.
Candidates and subscribers are expected to wear masks at all times and observe safe distancing by standing or sitting at least 1m apart when interacting with election officials and others.
ELD officials will also process candidates who are unwell and their teams separately. Candidates who are found to have fever or respiratory symptoms during temperature screening will be directed to a separate area for nomination. They and their subscribers can inspect Nomination papers of other candidates at the separate area.
Election officials will be equipped with protective gear like surgical masks, disposable gloves, face shields, and pocket-sized hand sanitisers. Dedicated cleaners will also ensure the premises maintain a high level of hygiene during the nomination proceedings before disinfecting the polling stations thoroughly when the polls close.
The ELD has yet to issue clear guidelines on campaigning for election parties. The authority said that it will share these directions at a later date since campaigning rules will take guidance from prevailing Ministry of Health guidelines on safe distancing and safe management.
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