SINGAPORE: Provisions will be made for Singaporeans who are on stay-home notices, COVID-19 quarantine orders or medical leave for acute respiratory infections to vote in the upcoming General Election, following the passing of a Bill on Monday (May 4) to facilitate voting during the pandemic.
The Parliamentary Elections (COVID-19 Special Arrangements) Bill will allow voters who are under COVID-19 stay orders at designated facilities to vote outside of their electoral divisions.
An aspiring candidate who is on a COVID-19 quarantine order or stay-home notice, hospitalised or ill may also authorise a representative to file his nomination paper on his behalf. Currently, the Parliamentary Elections Act requires potential candidates to file nomination papers in person.
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On the second reading of the Bill in Parliament on Monday, Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing explained that the Bill will allow Singaporeans serving stay-home notices at designated facilities, which are typically hotels, to vote outside their electoral divisions. This can be at the facilities they are staying at or at special polling stations.
“The COVID-19 situation is most likely to last many more months, including the possibility of recurring waves of infection across the world. We must therefore make contingency plans to safely conduct our next General Election under COVID-19 situation,” said Mr Chan, who spoke on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong for the Bill.
“This is the responsible thing to do: To robustly plan ahead. To keep our citizens safe while upholding our democracy.”
Singapore’s next General Election has to be called by Apr 21, 2021.
ARRANGEMENTS SIMILAR TO OVERSEAS VOTING
Arrangements for Singaporeans on stay-home notices will be similar to that for overseas voting, said ELD. At each special polling station, voters will mark their ballot papers in secret and place them in a single ballot box.
At the close of polls, the ballot box will be sealed and transported under police escort to a designated counting centre. Ballot papers from the various special polling stations will be mixed together, then sorted for counting. This will preserve voting secrecy, said ELD.
Candidates can be present at these special polling stations, regardless of electoral division, to observe the proceedings. A political party or independent candidates can also send one polling agent each to observe the proceedings.
Voters also will not be penalised for not voting if they have been issued stay orders or are on medical leave for acute respiratory illnesses.
“Their names will be restored to the electoral registers without penalty,” said Mr Chan.
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Auto-restoration will apply to those on quarantine and serving their stay-home notices at home, while those on medical leave can apply to restore their names to the registers after the election.
For aspiring candidates, their representative must be a Singapore citizen who is entitled to vote. The representative must also have a Power of Attorney authorising him or her to represent and act on behalf of the potential candidate at nomination proceedings, including the ability to submit nomination papers and raise objections to the nomination papers of other candidates.
There is no authorisation to substitute subscribers, as subscribers can be any person whose name is in the relevant register of electors, said ELD. Aspiring candidates should find a replacement if any of their subscribers are on stay orders or ill, it added.
The amendments also empower the Prime Minister to make regulations for additional modifications to the Parliamentary Elections Act, so as to minimise exposure of the general public or election officials to COVID-19.
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The Bill does not cover other precautionary measures that ELD is planning for, such as those on campaigning. ELD said it will share the guidelines for campaigning in due course.
The Bill’s arrangements are also in addition to Sections 56A to 56F of the Parliamentary Elections Act, which already contain powers to deal with some disruptive events, said Mr Chan.
Those sections lay out the conditions under which nomination, polling and other election activities can be changed or cancelled due to disruptive events such as a riot or open violence, a natural disaster, a health hazard or other contingencies that can endanger the people involved.
Mr Chan added that the passing of the Bill is unrelated to the timing of the General Election.
“The Prime Minister will decide when to call the election, considering the challenges confronting our country and the evolving COVID-19 situation,” he said.
Published at Mon, 04 May 2020 11:52:09 +0000