By Tiffany Gwee
The two 17 year-old students who discovered and removed five empty ballot boxes last year have been issued advisories and counselled by the Police for “unauthorized removal” of the boxes. The ballot boxes were supposedly used in the last Presidential election back in 2011.
Follow-up to the Incident in 2013
The empty election ballot boxes were actually found in a school in the Bishan-Toa Payoh division in August last year. One of the students sent a few photos of the boxes to Temasek Review Emeritus (TRE) upon discovering them. He mentioned that he found five boxes in a school storeroom and took a picture with the newspaper on it to prove that the boxes were still around during that period of time (in 2013).
TRE checked with a few counting and elections agents to find out what could have happened during the election process that led to the dumping of boxes in the storeroom. It seems like after ballot boxes are opened, the ballot papers will be poured onto the counting table and mixed up ahead of counting. After counting, the papers are then bundled and placed into different boxes called the “Depository Boxes” – in which they will be stored for 6 months in the Supreme Court before being incinerated.
The agents whom TRE spoke to felt that the officials at the counting centre should be responsible for the empty ballot boxes and properly dispose of them so as to not cause public confusion if found.
The Elections Department lodged a police report after receiving information about the discovery of the empty boxes.
No Breach of Integrity
According to the Police, the ballot boxes were “used and discarded boxes meant to be disposed of” by the Election Department’s waste collectors, except that they did not collect them after the elections.
“There was no evidence that relates to the tampering of ballot boxes before and while in use, and hence no breach of integrity of the electoral process,” said a police spokesman to a local news source.
The students who discovered the boxes were given the warning and counselled by the Police earlier this week. It is unknown if the contractor is being penalized for not completing the disposal work.
Not the Students’ Fault?
When the Straits Times reported this earlier this week, majority of the readers were puzzled as to why the students were at fault and why there was even a need for counselling and a warning.
Facebook user Ng Cher Choon commented that it was definitely “not the students’ fault”. “Why counsel them? It should be the ones who store them. If it is so important, it should be (stored) somewhere where it is not accessible by students.”
Another user Naz Spice questioned the need for counseling. She commented, “Why counsel the boys when it was carelessly left around for them to find? Why didn’t the election department do their jobs properly?”
Who is at Fault then?
There were also some who mentioned that the boys were made “scapegoats” for the incident and the actual one at fault is essentially the one who was supposed to be in charge of the boxes.
Naz Spice also added that the election department should be held “accountable” for the carelessness. Many others also shared the same sentiment – that the people in charge of the disposal of such ballot boxes are the ones at fault.
User Celine Gomez commented, “Careless election workers leaving ballot boxes lying around. As usual slip shod work. Then push the blame (to the students).”
Cover Photo by: Desmond Wee