Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The significance of low percentage of spoilt votes


Spoilt votes accounted for 2.17 per cent of the total votes cast in last Saturday’s General Election (GE), the second-lowest rate since Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) were introduced in 1988.

And while political observers felt the low spoilt vote rate in this GE augurs well for the Republic’s political development, they also argued for clear guidelines on what would be deemed a spoilt vote.

There were 44,714 spoilt votes among the 2.06 million votes cast last Saturday and the rate of 2.17 per cent was lower than the 2006 GE rate of 2.3 per cent.

The lowest rate occurred in 2001 when spoilt votes accounted for just 2.13 per cent of the 1.39 million votes cast, while the 1991 GE saw the highest rate of 2.7 per cent.

Given the keen contest, Singapore Management University law lecturer Eugene Tan felt voters may have felt “acutely” the need to make a firm stand, as there may have been “a subtle concern” among voters of “a freak election outcome” – either the People’s Action Party losing a lot more seats or even power, as well as the Opposition not winning a single seat at all.

Foreign Minister George Yeo – leader of the PAP’s Aljunied GRC team – had also cautioned against voters spoiling their votes, although they faced an “emotional dilemma” between voting for the PAP or their Workers’ Party opponents.

At a rally on April 30, Mr Yeo said “the vote is about your future” and voters should “examine the alternatives carefully”.

Independent scholar Derek da Cunha also pointed out that there were more contests this GE compared to 2001, where only 29 of the 84 seats were contested.

“The desire by voters to make their vote count in this election was far greater than at any time,” he said.

Thus, the keen contests in Hougang, Aljunied GRC and Potong Pasir saw the lowest rates of spoilt votes this GE.

But this has not quelled Internet chatter about what constitutes a spoilt vote as the winning margin of 114 votes in Potong Pasir was less than the number of spoilt votes of 242.

An invalid vote is any ballot paper which is not perforated properly or stamped with the official mark or initialled by an officer.

Ballot papers which are unmarked, which give the vote to more than one candidate, or where the intention of the voter is unclear, will also be deemed invalid votes.

Former Nominated Member of Parliament Siew Kum Hong felt that the Elections Department should publish clear guidelines on what constitutes a spoilt vote.

“This is not to suggest that counting officials are biased but rather that reasonable people acting in good faith could reasonably differ on whether a vote should be rejected,” he said.

“Otherwise, some may continue to question the fairness of the process, which unnecessarily undermines public perception of the integrity of the process.” he added.

Meanwhile, Ang Mo Kio GRC, Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC and West Coast GRC witnessed the highest rates of spoilt votes among all wards.

Despite the mismatch between the PAP and Opposition teams in two of the GRCs – Ang Mo Kio and Pasir Ris-Punggol – SMU Assistant Professor Tan argued voters who spoilt their votes were making “a form of protest”.

“They were not voting the Opposition but were also unwilling to vote for the PAP. They may be sending a message that they were unhappy,” Assistant Prof Tan said.

Three wards with the highest spoilt vote rate:
  1. Ang Mo Kio GRC – 3.00%
  2. Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC – 2.85%
  3. West Coast GRC – 2.53%
Three wards with the lowest spoilt vote rate:
  1. Hougang – 1.13%
  2. Aljunied – 1.34%
  3. Potong Pasir – 1.51%

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