Singapore — The Elections Department (ELD) announced on Monday (Oct 5) that President Halimah Yacob had directed it to open a sealed box containing votes from the 2020 General Election, which was held on July 10, for the retrieval of a document inadvertently placed inside it by an election official.
The document is a copy of the register of electors for polling district PN23 of Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC, which indicates the voters who cast their ballots on Polling Day. As voting is mandatory in Singapore, the ELD uses such documents to ascertain who did not vote on Polling Day.
The ELD explained that an election official at the Elias Park Primary School Counting Centre “inadvertently placed” the document together with the counted ballot papers into the ballot box, which was sealed and is now kept in the Supreme Court vault.
In accordance with the Parliamentary Elections Act (PEA), all sealed ballot boxes must be kept in safe custody pending destruction at the end of six months after the elections — in this case, until Jan 10, 2021.
During the 6-month period, only a Judge of the High Court can order the sealed boxes to be opened and their contents inspected, and even then, it can only be for the purpose of instituting or maintaining a prosecution or an application to invalidate an election.
At the end of 6 months after the polls, the contents of the ballot boxes must all be destroyed unless otherwise directed by Order of the President.
The ELD said President Halimah has by Order directed the Returning Officer to retrieve the document concerned on or after Jan 10, 2021, but before the ballot papers have to be destroyed.
Noting that this process has been done before, the ELD said the candidates from the three parties that contested Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC in the elections — the People’s Action Party (PAP), the Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA) and Peoples Voice (PV) — will be invited to witness the retrieval process.
Madam Halimah also directed the Returning Officer to destroy the copy of the register of electors for PN23 no later than 30 days from the date of retrieval.
The ELD said that the delay in retrieving the register means that it can only publish the names of non-voters in polling district PN 23 of Pasir-Ris Punggol GRC later.
The names of all other non-voters in GE2020 can now be inspected at the ELD building, designated community centres or clubs, or Singapore missions abroad that serve as overseas registration centres. Citizens can also use the ELD website or the SingPass mobile application to check their voter status.
According to Section 43 of the PEA, the names of non-voters have been removed from the registers of electors and these individuals will not be able to vote or stand as a candidate at future elections until they pay a penalty to have their names are reinstated.
Non-voters who were under a Covid-19 quarantine order or under a Stay Home Notice order during the election period, as well as those who were given a medical certificate on Polling Day, may apply to have their names reinstated for free. /TISG