GE2020: SDP calls for independent inquiry into how election was conducted after mistake led to woman not voting

SINGAPORE – The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) has called for an independent inquiry into how the recent general election was conducted, citing “mistakes, missteps and misdirections” including an incident where a woman was wrongly prevented from voting.

The Elections Department earlier said that “human error and miscommunication” had led to a woman, known only as Madam Lum, being unable to cast her vote on Polling Day in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC.

At the polling station, she had been told that she had already voted. Madam Lum then reportedly filled out a “tendered ballot paper” – typically issued when someone applies to vote despite the register indicating that the person’s vote had already been cast.

In the press release issued on Thursday (July 16), SDP chairman Paul Tambyah said: “We call for the ELD to reveal how many such irregular events happened during the poll, and an independent inquiry into the conduct of the election, with a particular focus on issues such as the use of ‘tendered ballot slips’ which apparently were not counted in this election.”

The Parliamentary Elections Act states that tendered ballot papers are not counted by the Returning Officer, but placed in separate packets according to the candidate or group of candidates they support. The packets are sealed and retained unless required for the purposes of an application to void the results of an election.

Prof Tambyah added: “From the long queues at several counting stations to the changing instructions on the use of disposable gloves to the lack of advance information about the need for personal protective equipment for polling agents from 7pm and often conflicting instructions for that hour at the polling stations, coupled with the sudden and unexpected announcement about the extension of polling hours, this election has been fraught with missteps, mistakes and misdirections.”

The SDP chairman also said that the inquiry should be reviewed by all the political parties who took part in the election.

The incident involving Madam Lum in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC came to light shortly after the election. The ELD on Wednesday said it had investigated the incident and found that her NRIC was not used to register to vote on Polling Day.

Instead, the Presiding Officer had failed to register Madam Lum’s IC because the officer “had not switched out of the wrong module of the e-Registration system, which he had used to serve the previous voter”.

The officer escalated the matter to the Assistant Returning Officer but a “miscommunication” between the officers led the Assistant Returning Officer “to interpret that Madam Lum’s NRIC number had already been used to register for voting earlier in the day”.

“This was then wrongly communicated to Madam Lum,” the ELD said.

It added that Madam Lum was relieved the issue has been clarified, and said it would restore her name to the voter rolls without penalty. She had filed a police report after the incident.

The PAP beat the SDP team in Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, gaining 66.36 per cent of the votes.

The ELD earlier said that it would conduct a review. Head of ELD Koh Siong Ling, responding to a forum letter published in The Straits Times describing an hour-long wait to vote, said on Monday: “We will conduct a thorough review to understand what went wrong and why they happened, especially at some polling stations.”

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