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Elections Department spells out safe voting measures

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Everyone entering the polling stations must wear a mask - as required by the law when outside their homes - and use the SafeEntry app for contact tracing, says the Elections Department.

Singapore

THE Elections Department (ELD) on Monday gave more details of how it is planning for the next general election that could be held during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among the many safety measures is a plan to reduce the number of voters in polling stations and conduct temperature screening on all voters at the start of the queues to detect those with fever or respiratory symptoms.

A decision on whether such persons will be allowed to vote will be made later based on the prevailing Covid-19 situation at that time, the ELD said in a media statement.

The temperatures of all candidates and polling agents will also be taken if they want to enter the polling station, and those with fever or respiratory systems will be refused entry.

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Everyone entering the stations must wear a mask - as required by the law when outside their homes - and use the SafeEntry app for contact tracing. Voters have to sanitise their hands and don disposable gloves before receiving a ballot paper.

To minimise exposure to unwell persons and those who have come into recent close contact with Covid-19 cases, Parliament recently passed an Act to provide special polling stations for those serving Stay-Home Notice (SHN) at designated facilities to cast their votes.

As at May, there were around 1,000 of such voters and the number would have been reduced by now, the ELD said.

As for other affected voters, such as those on Quarantine Orders, serving SHN at home, ELD said it would consult the Health Ministry when the Writ of Election is issued to assess the public health risks of allowing them to vote.

To allow for safe distancing, the number of polling stations in Singapore will be increased from 880 to 1,100, with the number of voters reduced from an average 3,000 to 2,400.

The poll cards that voters receive before Polling Day will indicate a recommended two-hour timeframe for them to cast their ballots, in an effort to spread people out across the voting hours.

Senior voters aged 65 and above will be allotted a longer four-hour time band from 8am to 12 noon, and those that need assistance can be accompanied by one household member.

Singapore must hold its next general election by April 2021. However, there is speculation that the poll could be held as soon as July, especially as Singapore prepares to move on to Phase 2 of the re-opening of the economy by the end of June.

On Monday, ELD said it would release guidelines on campaigning only nearer to the election, "before the issue of the Writ", because rallies, walkabouts and house visits involve large group gatherings.

The guidelines would have to "depend on the Covid-19 situation at the time", according to the department. If safe distancing restricts gathering to five people or fewer then, election rallies would be out of the question, it said.

But if the situation improves and larger gatherings are allowed, the guidelines would then be adjusted accordingly.

"If social distancing measures allow 10 persons to congregate, then we will allow walkabouts, subject to safe distancing requirements. But if the guidelines only allow for five persons (to gather), then we have got to decide what it means for walkabouts," ELD said.

The department said it is looking at various scenarios in developing campaigning guidelines. It is also considering other forms of campaigning, including giving more TV air time to political parties and candidates.

"As Covid-19 is likely to be present beyond April 2021, we strongly encourage candidates and political parties to plan for modes of campaigning that minimise large group gatherings," it said.

This includes e-campaigning, with ELD also announcing measures to increase transparency and accountability for paid Internet election advertising (IEA).

In addition to declaring the platforms they are using for IEA, candidates must also state whether they are using paid IEA.

If so, they must provide further information on the type of services used; the publisher of the paid IEA; the period that the paid IEA will appear; whether the money received for the placement of the paid IEA was from the candidate, his election agent, his political party or any other person.

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