Running a free and fair election is neither brain surgery, nor rocket science, nor differential geometry.
The irregularities that SDP reported are a case of Elections Department's incompetence, if not worse.
Before the forthcoming Presidential Election, the Elections Department must get its procedures in order, so that all loopholes for shenanigans are closed.
It must make public how the loopholes are being closed, and how fairness is being achieved. It must be accountable to the people.
On the issue of transporting ballot boxes from the polling station to the counting place, Section 48(3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act (here) states that:
Every presiding officer of a polling station shall despatch each such packet and the ballot box or boxes in safe custody to the Returning Officer or an Assistant Returning Officer at the counting place where the votes cast at the polling station are to be counted in accordance with the provisions of this Act.Comparing with other aspects of the elections such as polling and vote counting, the transportation of ballot boxes has received little attention in the Parliamentary Elections Act.
To convince everyone that ballot boxes are indeed in safe custody during transportation, and that any of the following shenanigans cannot happen:
- genuine ballot boxes being discarded
- fake ballot boxes being added
- ballot boxes being tampered with
- the presiding officer of the polling station or his representative escort the ballot boxes (I don't know whether this was required during the recent elections)
- candidates and polling agents be allowed to escort the ballot boxes
|No Reply from Elections Department|
|Friday, 17 June 2011|
The Singapore Democrats wrote to the Elections Department on 26 May 11, pointing out a series of inconsistent practices carried out by election officials on polling day during GE 2011. It has been three weeks and the ELD has yet to reply.
The most serious concern is the fact that buses that were used to transport the ballot boxes to the counting centres had carried other ballot boxes.
Our polling agents had observed that when the buses arrived at the polling stations to pick up ballot boxes there were other boxes on board. When our polling agents asked to inspect these boxes to verify their source and to make sure that they were valid, presiding officers refused to allow them to do so.
The officers also refused to explain why the boxes were in the bus or where them had come from.
When it comes to elections one cannot be too careful and the ELD must take every measure to ensure that the process is completely transparent and not leave room for any questions.
We have written to the ELD again and reminded them to respond to our queries. We append the letter that we wrote on 26 May:
26 May 2011
Ms Goh Jing Xian
Manager (Public Education & Training)
Elections Department, Prime Minister’s Office
Dear Ms Goh,
We thank you for your reply.
Before I give you the names of the places where we encountered problems, I wish to bring to your attention another observation.
Our polling agents stationed at Beacon Primary School said that when the bus arrived to pick up the ballot boxes, they noticed that there were already ballot boxes on board. We presume that these were ballot boxes that were picked up from another polling station.
Our polling agents wanted to verify this by checking those boxes. Unfortunately they were prevented from doing so. How does one ensure that the boxes being transported are indeed the ones that were used for polling during the day from another polling station?
With regards to the disallowance of candidates into the polling stations, we wish to bring to your attention that at the Hwa Chong Institution, Bukit Timah Primary School, and Raffles Girls Primary School our Holland-Bukit Timah GRC candidates were refused entry.
This is in contravention of the Parliamentary Elections Act which, as you say, states that "candidates contesting at the election in a constituency and their authorised polling agents may enter a polling station during the poll in that constituency."
With reference to food being consumed inside the polling stations, we wish to inform you that across the polling stations at the Sembawang and Holland-Bukit GRCs, we were allowed to deliver meals to our polling agents.
However, at around 5pm when we were getting dinner for our polling agents at several polling stations across the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, we were suddenly prevented from going into the polling stations to handover the food. This was not the case for the polling stations in the other constituencies.
We also note that in your letter you state that: "Polling agents are allowed to enter the polling station on condition that the election agent has informed the presiding officers of the names of the polling agents who are to be stationed at the polling station."
We were told the day before by ELD
Yet, without these lists our polling agents were allowed entry into all the polling stations except for one.
You also say that, "Each time a candidate’s polling agent seeks entry to the polling station during the day, the presiding officer will ask to check the letter of appointment and to keep the oath of secrecy form."
Apparently this is not the case as the polling stations at our Sembawang GRC did not insist on this procedure. Our polling agents at the Beascon Primary School at the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was also not required to hand in the oath of secrecy form each time they entered the station.
Finally, the schedule provided to us clearly stated that the main counting centre for the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC was at the Zhenghua Secondary School. However, our candidates were told by the presiding officer there that the Zhenghua school was not the main counting centre. Asked where it was, your officials said that they did not know.
Chee Soon Juan
Singapore Democratic Party