The Singapore People’s Party’s chairman and its candidate for Potong Pasir SMC Jose Raymond has posted a query on his Facebook page seeking clarity on how voting will be conducted safely for Singaporeans based overseas.
In his Facebook post, he stated that there are more than 200,000 Singaporeans based overseas in various countries around the world but there are only 10 Overseas Polling Stations (OPS), according to the Elections Department website.
A list of the 10 OPS can be found here.
He said, “Singaporeans in parts of Europe who are eligible to vote will need to travel to London and may risk being placed in quarantine if the country where they reside at still have travel restrictions in place.
“Likewise, Singaporeans in New Zealand will need to travel to Canberra if they are to cast their vote.
“With safe distancing still in place in many countries around the world and with only essential travel allowed, if at all, the question needs to be asked if the Elections Department is looking at alternative methods for Singaporean voters who are based overseas to cast their votes.”
While voting can be classified as an essential activity, the question remains if overseas Singaporeans will bear the risk and travel just to cast their vote.
In his post, Mr Raymond added that it was necessary for the Elections Department to reveal if it had “alternative plans for Singaporeans based overseas to cast their votes given the Covid-19 pandemic with travel still not back to anywhere near normal.”
He also asked the Elections Department for a breakdown of the number of registered Singaporean voters who are overseas by country.
With Singapore gradually reopening its economy and country from 2 June onwards after two months of lockdown, talks of an election were sparked by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat’s saying that the elections “are coming nearer by the day” in an interview with Channel News Asia on 27 May.
Since then, the Workers Party, the Singapore Democratic Party and the SPP have all released statements calling on the Elections Department to make public the plans and rules which will govern the upcoming General Elections.
No postal ballot for overseas Singaporeans
Back in 2016, Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong, Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) from Workers’ Party, asked whether the Government will consider allowing early voting by postal ballot at the general elections, given that there are more than 200,000 Singapore citizens living abroad and most do not vote using the current overseas voting facilities for the reasons cited by Mr Raymond.
In a written response, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean wrote: “In postal voting, there are risks with security and secrecy of the ballot as it may be lost or tampered with during postal delivery. In addition, ballot papers have to be sent to the voter at their registered overseas addresses and they have to mail back the marked ballot papers to the Returning Officer by a certain date. It is difficult to ensure that the ballots will get back on time to be counted. Late votes and missing votes will result in controversies. For now, voting by paper ballot at polling stations is still the simplest and most transparent method of voting that can ensure the integrity and secrecy of the voting process.”