Election officials share their ordeals on Polling Day, say ELD should have done a better job

Election officials share their ordeals on Polling Day, say ELD should have done a better job

Last Saturday (11 July), Redditor u/hosehliao post a thread on a Reddit platform, titled Thoughts from an Election Official, to share their experience of being an election official during the polling day, which was held by last Friday (10 July).

In the post, the redditor claimed that the people who were assigned to be the election official can only withdraw if they are pregnant or on sick leave.

“First – none of us volunteered, we were simply assigned. You can get out of it only if you’re pregnant, or if you are on MC (whether keng or real). We get paid ~$250-300, which sounds great, but the hours are terrible.”

u/hosehliao added that they were required to go through a few training sessions and help to set up the polling station for four hours on the day before Polling Day.

Yet the redditor was told to help out for another two-and-a-half hours in the morning to do inventory check.

“And of course Polling day itself – we were originally told 6am-8.30pm, but some of us had to be there at 4.45am, and of course after the extension we ended up leaving at 10.30pm.”

Responding to the doubts on whether the votes are secret, the redditor clarified that it is impossible to trace back each voter of their votes without anyone knowing although there is a serial number on the ballot paper.

There were talks saying that people from People’s Action Party (PAP) were at the polling station to watch over the voting process, u/hosehliao did not deny it, noting that each contesting party is allowed to send people to witness the process.

“PAP always has witnesses there but opposition may not send people down to every site.

“Even so, there is a specific place they have to sit at, and they cannot see what vote you cast. Nor can they recognise the faces of everyone who went in.”

The redditor also lamented about the confusing instructions regarding the two-hour extension for polling hours, whereby the officers in the polling stations were not aware of the extension.

“We only found out about the 2h extension at 7+. In fact our supervisor was as confused as us, he told us that he saw the news on CNA website but ELD hasn’t given any instructions.

“We had a lot of questions (especially since 7-8pm was supposed to be for higher-risk patients and we had to wear mask/face shield/gown/gloves) but he said she had no idea either.”

According to u/hosehliao, of all the 20 officers who manned the polling station, only six were required to stay back and wear the protective gears as the voters on stay-home notice (SHN) and on medical certificate (MC) for acute respiratory infection will come out to vote between 7pm and 8pm.

Due to the extension of polling hours, the officers, however, were troubled by the lack of protective gears provided.

“By the time we heard about the extension, we were down to 6 people all wearing the gear, and the rest were told to go out of the site to prevent contamination. Then 10min later, our supervisor was told that all 20+ people should man the station from 7-9pm, and only wear the gear from 9-10pm for the sick/SHN voters.

“But by that point we already wore all our gear, and ELD did not provide us with any extra gear (there was only just enough for 6 of us), so we couldn’t take it off otherwise we wouldn’t have any left for later.

“And our supervisor decided that since one SHN person had voted at 7+, the 6 of us should wear the gear and man the whole station from 7-10pm.”

Apart from this, the redditor also said that the Elections Department (ELD) “kept flip flopping” on the usage of gloves for the voters.

“We were trained to offer gloves to all voters after sanitising their hands, and to encourage them to wear one even if they didn’t want to.

“Some time in the late morning, we were told to skip the gloves, so we kept it.

“Then a few hours later, we were told to put the gloves on the table, so that people could take them if they wanted, but we did not have to offer it.

“Then later we were told that we should offer voters gloves for those who wanted, and they could take one themselves.

“And then we were later told that if voters wanted gloves, we should take it for them, so they don’t touch the whole stack and contaminate everything.

“Why? No idea. I heard at the start they wanted people to wear gloves for safety, then later they said no gloves to speed up the process, then they said to offer gloves cos residents/MPs complained. Not sure how true.”

In response to the complains about inaccurate data in the Government voting website, u/hosehliao noted that it need to be manually updated by the officers, however, the officers had no time to update the website due to the hectic situation on the ground.

“Basically, they estimate the number of people in the queue, and go to a webpage and tap on “<10 voters”, “10-20 voters”, etcetc. It’s so strange, it’s like… if I printed out an email and started faxing it to people.

“ELD should have installed sensors to detect people entering or exiting, but I guess human labour was cheaper.”

Sharing experience of dealing with the difficult questions of the voters, the redditor expressed that although it is understandable why some voters were frustrated, but it is also difficult for the officers to help out as they are not the ELD staff.

“Overall, I don’t think ELD did a good job. They have 5 years to plan for GE and presidential election, and there are a lot of things they didn’t communicate to voters.

“I’m sure they were caught off guard by COVID, so the gloves thing wasn’t entirely their fault (although it’s clear they didn’t test out the whole process), but a lot of other issues could have been prevented if they did a proper job in between elections.”

In the same thread, many other redditors also shared their experience of being an officer on Polling Day, with the majority of them felt that the ELD did not plan and execute the Polling Day operations well, which may have posed a risk of exposing the officers to the COVID-19.

One of them, u/WhatsHappeningApril, who appeared to have served as an election official, expressed concerns about the gathering of people – those with protective gears and those without protective gears – in a small room for a briefing without having social distancing measures in place.

What’s more, after the briefing, the group of people with protective gears apparently took off their gears before heading to the main polling station.

“I had raised my concerns prior to election day, but I was assured that I won’t be able in contact with people in biohazard gear and that the biohazard gear team would go home immediately after taking out their gear so that they can shower (this was not the case).”

Other redditors, who were also election officials, commented that the last minute extension of polling hours from ELD had not only caused confusion, but also put the officials at risk of being infected.

What’s worse, the officials were told to “speed things up without much consideration about safety precautions”.

“We were being indirectly put on the frontline without proper protection. And there’s nothing we could do.”

Noting that this year’s election was the “worst out of all previous ones”, u/Drakeblaze87 pointed out that some voters did not follow the allocated time but simply come as they please, which resulted in long queues that affected other time slots as well.

u/Rouzk3zila noted that some voters even tried to threaten the officers that they will vote for alternative parties if they do not get some special service at the polling stations. Moreover, the redditor spoke about a “white candidate” who requested the polling agents to move the polling station for the convenience of the elderly voters.

“But actually by then most of the old folks already left…when the agent explains to her…she said ‘So…can I talk to anyone higher up??’ the agent also roll eyes.”

Meanwhile, u/tammydx highlighted that their polling station was badly situated given the noisy environment, which led to the officers having to repeat the voters’ serial numbers multiple times, and even show hand gestures so it can be heard by the polling agents donned with face mask and face shields.

The redditor also said that it is impossible to fully comply with the safe distancing measures as ELD strictly instructed them not to have direct contact with the voters, adding that it is cruel not to help the elderly people and those struggling after queuing up for an extended period of time during the voting process.

Another redditor, u/stephl, also raised concerns about overseas Singaporeans being unable to vote as they were unaware of having to register with the Local Contact Address (LCA) in Singapore.

The redditor asserted that the ELD should have done a better job communicating as well as liaising with other government institutions to ensure that all Singaporeans get to exercise their right to vote.

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