Friday, May 6, 2011

To first-time voters : Walking you through the voting process

by Martyn See Tong Ming on Thursday, 05 May 2011 at 19:09
Many of you are first-time voters in this General Elections. I'm not here to persuade you to vote one way or the other.

However, in the time between you leaving your house to the marking of your ballot papers in the polling station, something may happen in your mind, and may cause you to change your vote.

As a former polling and counting agent for the NSP in my GRC of Tampines in GE06, I like to walk you through the voting process so you can avoid this last minute change of mind.

When you arrive at the polling station with your polling card, you will see police officers, some uniformed, others in plain-clothes. Their job is to ensure that no laws are broken - that no one is wearing party logos, shouting slogans or influencing another person to vote one way or the other. Ignore the officers and follow the signs to the polling room.

You will then come to a long table manned by election officers, who are likely to be civil servants or teachers on weekend duty. They will wear serious and grouchy expressions.
Around the table will be polling agents from the PAP and the opposition. The PAP agents are likely to be wearing all white and the opposition in their party colours - minus party logos. A more likely scenario is that you will only see all-whites, as the opposition may not have recruited enough volunteers to act as polling agents.

What is the role of a polling agent? Like the police, he or she is there to ensure that there are no foul play, that no one is unduly influenced, and that all proper procedures are adhered to.

Again, ignore these polling agents.

Present your IC and your polling card to the election officer at the table. He or she will not be smiling at you. The general tone and atmosphere will be clinical and business-like.

Officer 'X' will scrutinise your IC, cast a look at your face, and announce your name and NRIC number (or your polling card's serial number) to the next officer. The announcement is likely to be quite loud, within earshot of everybody in the room. This is a normal procedure. Do not feel intimidated by this sudden exposure of your presence in the room.

Next, officer 'Y' will scan through a long list of names, and after locating yours, he will write your voting slip's serial number next to your name.

You will now be handed your voting slip. It will look like a voucher coupon, with a serial number at the top, and the PAP and the opposition party's logos next to blank square boxes.

You will be then directed to a makeshift booth with curtains that cover the top half of your body. This is where you cross the 'X' next to the box of your preferred party. You may use the pens provided at the booth, or you may bring your own blue or black pens. No one can see what you write in the booth.

After marking your 'X', fold your voting slip inwards, (here, I usually make a silent prayer that my preferred choice wins), and emerge from the curtained booth. You will then be pointed to drop your voting slip into a cardbox within a few steps from the voting booth. There you go. You just casted your first vote!

My tip - try to avoid going to the polling station between 9am to 3pm, when you are likely to be stuck in a queue. The polling station is opened from 8am til 8pm.

And watch this excellent video made by local human rights group Maruah.

'Is my vote really secret?'

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