Parliament on Monday (4 May) has passed a Bill which will enable Singaporeans serving Stay-Home Notices (SHNs) and Quarantine Orders at designated isolation facilities to vote outside their electoral divisions, either at the said facilities or at dedicated polling stations.
The Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill is part of the Government’s “contingency plans” in holding Singapore’s next General Election during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing.
Those serving SHNs or are on medical leave for acute respiratory illnesses will not be penalised for not casting their votes in the next GE, and will have their names “restored to the electoral registers without penalty,” he added.
Individuals serving SHNs and quarantine orders will have their names automatically restored to the registers after the election, while those on medical leave can apply to have their names restored.
Speaking on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Mr Chan said during the second reading of the Bill today that the outbreak is “most likely to last many more months, including the possibility of recurring waves of infection across the world”.
The newly passed Bill, he explained, is part of the Government’s move to “robustly plan ahead” and keeping “our citizens safe while upholding our democracy”.
According to the Elections Department (ELD), Singaporeans on SHNs will undergo a similar voting process to overseas voters.
They will be able to mark their ballot papers in secret and deposit them in a single ballot box, even though they are from different electoral divisions.
The Bill, however, does not cover other precautionary measures that ELD is planning for, such as those on campaigning.
ELD said it will reveal the guidelines for campaigning at a later date.
Mr Chan noted that the Bill’s provisions supplement Sections 56A to 56F of the Parliamentary Elections Act, which provides for circumstances under which nomination, polling and other election activities can be changed or cancelled as a result of disruptive events.
Disruptive events include riots or open violence, natural disasters, a health hazard or any other circumstance that may endanger those partaking in said election.
The passing of this Bill, however, is not related to when the next GE will be held, as the Prime Minister will decide when to call the election “considering the challenges confronting our country and the evolving COVID-19 situation,” said Mr Chan.
The Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill was introduced by Mr Chan in Parliament on 7 April.
Earlier on 13 March, the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) released the review boundaries, which may indicate an imminent election within one or two months as per past election trends.
TOC earlier last month reported receiving several tip-offs that the ELD, which comes under the Prime Minister’s Office, has been preparing for an election in May or June, based on job advertisements relating to elections preparations on various job-seeking platforms.
ELD, however, said that these are merely annual preparation work conducted by its contractors.
Previously, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on 27 Mar told reporters in a doorstop interview at the Istana that Singapore has to “weigh conducting an election under abnormal circumstances, against going into a storm with a mandate which is reaching the end of its term”.
“I would not rule any possibility out,” he added.