SINGAPORE – Singaporeans who have been struck off the voter rolls will be individually informed both by mail and the Singpass app to verify their status and restore their names to the Registers of Electors.
Education Minister and Minister-in-charge of the Public Service Chan Chun Sing told Parliament on Tuesday that the Elections Department (ELD) will institutionalise this going forward, in addition to the current practice of putting out statements urging voters to check their status when the non-voter list is published.
In the 2020 General Election, ELD recorded about 111,000 non-voters, while in GE2015 and GE2011, about 155,000 and 147,000 people, respectively, failed to cast their votes, said Mr Chan.
He was replying to questions from Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), Dr Tan Wu Meng (Jurong GRC), Mr Liang Eng Hwa (Bukit Panjang) and Ms He Ting Ru (Sengkang GRC), who had filed parliamentary questions about recent election-related system issues.
Sept 1, which was Polling Day for the recent presidential election (PE2023), saw long queues form at several polling stations from 8am due to technical issues with the voter electronic registration system.
Addressing a question on this by Dr Tan, Mr Chan said there was no evidence that the technical problems were caused by cyber attacks. Instead, they were due to the central server not being able to handle the “inordinate amount of surge” by registration devices at the polling stations trying to send back data.
As their messages did not go through, the devices kept trying to contact the server, which caused a cascade effect, added Mr Chan.
This could have been partly contributed by the morning peak: 52 per cent of total voters turned up to vote in the first four hours, compared with 32 per cent in GE2020, he said. ELD officials realised this at about 8.30am and quickly increased server capacity, and the issue was largely resolved by 10am, said Mr Chan.
Mr Singh asked about ELD’s Aug 24 statement – which said about 200 Singaporeans had been left off the voter rolls even though they had voted at GE2020 – and the steps that will be taken to prevent a reoccurrence.
Mr Chan said that from the time the Writ of Election for PE2023 was issued to Polling Day, 1,093 Singaporeans told ELD that they did not receive their poll cards even though they said they had voted in GE2020.
ELD’s investigation concluded that the most probable cause of error was that national registration identity card (NRIC) details of those affected had not been properly captured by the e-registration system introduced in GE2020.
Then, election officials who scanned a voter’s NRIC would hear a beep.
They then had to tap an “OK” button on screen before they could register the next voter. If they did not and scanned the next NRIC, there would still be a beep but the record of this voter would not have been captured, said Mr Chan.
“It is likely that in their effort to clear the queues at some polling stations quickly in GE2020, some election officials might have missed out this step,” he added.
A new electronic system was implemented for PE2023 that did not require officials to press any button before registering the next voter. All 1,093 affected voters have also had their names restored, he added.
Replying to Ms He and an earlier question by Ms Ng Ling Ling (Ang Mo Kio GRC) on whether ELD would inform individual voters who had been expunged from the Registers of Electors to remind them to apply for reinstatement, Mr Chan said ELD would do so going forward.
“ELD will institute an additional measure to individually inform Singaporeans on the non-voter list via mail and through SG Notify in Singpass to verify their status, and to restore their names to the registers,” he said.
Mr Singh asked if ELD would be sending letters and notifications to all non-voters in GE2020 who have not applied to put themselves back on the voter rolls, given the issue with the e-registration system used in that election. This is as there may be those who voted in GE2020 but had yet to inform ELD that they had been struck off the rolls.
Mr Chan replied that all non-voters would be contacted and reminded to check their status on the Registers of Electors.
“Going forward, we will always do this process: All those (who) for whatever reasons were on the non-voters list, we will send them an individual reminder, on top of the public service announcements that we have made,” he said.
Mr Liang asked why ELD does not automatically update the voter rolls with all Singaporeans’ names after each election, given that voting is compulsory.
Mr Chan said: “The penalty for not voting, and the process of expunging the names of non-voters, gives effect to the notion of compulsory voting. Starting on a clean slate with no penalty will undermine this.”
ELD told The Straits Times it is compiling the non-voter list for PE2023 and this is expected to be completed over the next one to two months.