Experiences of polling agents stationed at various polling locations flooded social media. They centred on the inefficiencies and inconsistencies of polling procedures on 10 July.
For Loo Zihan, he recounted more than just that in a Facebook post when he volunteered as a polling agent with the Workers’ Party (WP).
He explained the need for alternative parties’ presence among People’s Action Party (PAP) polling agents, questioned some voting processes and shared his thoughts on a ‘crisis election’.
Volunteering Polling Agents for Alternative Parties were the “Checks and Balances” for the Polling Process
Mr Loo observed “the shouting and the striking off (of) the electoral register manually” was an “unnecessary bureaucratic step since the entire process has been digitised and no one checks the manual register at the end of the day.”
He felt this mandatory “anachronistic gesture left over from past elections” just created this “sense of business and purpose for the PAP polling agents”.
However, it filled the air with a “sense of surveillance”.
“Voters often turn around to look at the PAP polling agents (and) wonder why their names are being recorded and announced to the whole room right before they mark their ballots.”
The lack of bandwidth to be aware of how this administrative duty was impacting voters was the “main purpose of having us partisan representatives present”.
Another “check and balance” that the WP polling agents had to enforce was “registration counters (rushing) through the process as crowds grew and neglecting briefly to ask voters to lower their masks to verify their identity before scanning their IDs”.
He adds that after the returning officer (RO) and POs were informed, and aware that WP volunteers were watching, they “conducted themselves differently”.
“We were the check and balance that maintained an overview of the process alongside the RO and call out discrepancies occasionally”.
At some point, a PAP polling agent asked Mr Loo to “note down numbers he missed” when the polling agent “gave up on the register after a while and started flipping pages and repeating numbers to look like he was doing something”.
Mr Loo declined as he reminded the PAP polling agent that it wasn’t the responsibility for his role.
The woman who took over the polling agent simply “took over his job dutifully without questioning why she was striking off names of a register, and who she was doing this Sisyphean task for”.
To him, he felt it was an “entire scenario of a microcosm of the Singaporean democratic process” and stressed that this was the reason “an external opposition eye is critical in Parliament”.
Some Safety Voting Processes Were Impractical and Inefficient
As precautions needed to be strictly observed amidst the pandemic, Mr Loo noted that the RO and PO were sweating profusely under their face shields and masks.
“The POs who were in charge of giving out the ballot slip had a particularly tough job of shouting out the number and name for each voter, (when) their voices (were) muffled under (the) protective gear.”
As reported by TOC, long queues formed “during the mid-morning and that it was a clear mistake to be scheduling all the elderly folk to vote first,” Mr Loo opined.
“They slowed down the process from the start and it snowballed over” into the rest of the day, he added.
Some Singaporeans even had to wait as long as one hour. The RO and POs did their best to crowd manage, giving up their own chairs, handing out water, and distributing insect repellant when voters complained of mosquito bites.
“There was a lady who registered her frustration with the long waiting time quite audibly by stamping on her ballot loudly and repeatedly.”
Mr Loo attributed the root problem of these issues to “the processes not thoroughly thought (out) and timed (as) the main bottleneck (was due to the) additional steps along the way to ensure sanitation and hygiene during these exceptional times”.
A ‘Crisis Election” Should Not have Been Held Now
The bottomline sentiment that Mr Loo expressed was that “the elections should never have been called by the dominant party at this time”.
The difficulty and diligence in having to adhere and facilitate such processes would have never been enforced if a “crisis election” was not called.
“It could have been avoided to begin with.”