Electronic registration, self-inking pen among new features to be rolled out at next General Election [TODAY Online]

Slew of improvements for candidates and voters at the next General Election (GE).

TODAY Online

Voting Stamp

Candidates at the next General Election (GE) can expect a more seamless administrative process before and after Polling Day, with most of the paperwork previously done by hand set to be digitised.

Voters will also have a more fuss-free experience, with electronic registration supplanting hardcopy registers at polling stations. A new “self-inking pen” — an instrument for stamping a cross on the ballot paper — will also replace regular pens at polling booths.

On Friday (Nov 29), the Elections Department (ELD) gave the media a first look at the new features to be rolled out at the next GE, which must be called by April 2021.

Here are the features that you can expect:

CANDIDATES: DIGITAL FEATURES

  • Election candidates will be able to carry out a slew of services online, saving them the hassle of picking up hardcopy forms.

  • For instance, before Polling Day, they will be able to foot their election deposit and get a receipt online, obviating the need to make a trip to the Accountant-General’s Department. They will also be able to apply for a political donation certificate and appoint election agents online.

  • Candidates may also draft their nomination papers electronically. If an electoral division is specified, the system will automatically check if a candidate’s proposer, seconder and assenters are in the relevant register of electors.

  • Candidates will still have to present hard copies of nomination papers, election-deposit receipts, as well as political donation and minority community certificates (for group representation constituencies) on Nomination Day.

  • After the polls, candidates’ election agents may prepare the returns on election expenses — which ensure accountability and transparency in campaign finances — and perform other tasks online, too.

  • ELD will meet representatives of the political parties in about two weeks to give them a go at the new digital services, and to seek feedback and fine-tune the system.

  • ELD stressed that the new services were an extra avenue for candidates and their agents to apply for various certificates. Candidates may continue to submit hardcopy forms if they wish to do so.

VOTERS: E-REGISTRATION, NEW VOTING ‘PENS’

  • Electronic registration: To register at polling stations, voters will have their national registration identity cards scanned by new machines. The machines are by Smartmatic, a firm specialising in electronic voting systems. Electronic registration negates the need for election officials to find and strike out a voter’s name from a hardcopy register. This is expected to cut registration to a mere two seconds, from 10 seconds. These machines, used over two elections, will set the Government back by about 70 cents per voter.

  • ELD will hold at least 40 roadshows in community clubs ahead of the next GE to bring voters up to speed with the new registration process. These roadshows will likely happen over several weekends after the electoral boundaries report is released, ELD said. It is unclear when this would happen. The Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) was formed in August to review the boundaries of the current electoral divisions, and to recommend the number and boundaries of group representation constituencies (GRCs) and single-member wards. EBRC’s deliberations are continuing, ELD said.

  • “Self-inking” pens: Voters will no longer find pens in the polling booths. Replacing them are “self-inking pens”, which allow voters to stamp a cross on the ballot paper to indicate their vote. These Japan-made instruments, which cost about S$5 each, are also used by voters in places such as South Korea and Taiwan. ELD said they allow voters to mark their choice without ambiguity. The pens require voters to use minimal pressure and are suitable for elderly people. It is hoped that the switch would also reduce invalid votes, as some voters used to pen messages on the ballot paper, rendering them invalid.

  • Environmentally friendly booths to be tested: ELD will also test prototype booths made of environmentally friendly and recyclable materials at a GRC and two single-member wards. Each of these constituencies will have at least three prototype booths for every polling station. A collaboration with the Singapore Institute of Technology, these low-cost booths come to just S$30 each, compared with the current S$750 booths. New small portable booths — to be positioned on a person’s lap — will also be rolled out for voters who move around on wheelchairs.

  • ELD Telegram channel: Voters may sign up for updates on election matters on “Elections Department (ELD)”, the department’s new channel on messaging app Telegram, where press statements and gazettes will be posted.

  • MyInfo and SingPass mobile app: Voters may check their particulars in the register of electors and information such as voting eligibility and polling district via the MyInfo government website or the SingPass mobile app. They will need two-factor authentication when they log in with their SingPass.

Source: TODAY Online


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