Counting agent me too

Sylvia Tan was also a counting agent, but assigned to a counting centre different from the one I was in. She submitted a set of drawings last night to show what marks were considered valid or invalid at the centre where she was. Like several comments to the earlier post Counting agent me by readers who were also counting agents, her observations reinforce the picture we have of considerable inconsistency in the way ballots are adjudicated. By the way, Counting agent me set a new Yawning Bread record of 100,000 hits thirty-six hours after it was published.

At Sylvia Tan’s counting centre, ballots like example 13, containing a tiny cross, was ruled as valid for the umbrella party — this should not be controversial. Example 14 was also ruled valid (for the bunny ears party) even when there were two markings on the ballot paper. The table chief at Sylvia Tan’s centre judged that the voter’s intention was clear. Such a ballot would have been ruled invalid at the centre where I was on the ground that there were two markings on the ballot paper.

Example 15, with two ends of the cross invading the other box was also ruled as valid for the umbrella party. In the counting centre where I was, such a ballot would have been ruled invalid. Example 16 had the centre of the cross not clearly in one box or the other and was treated as a rejected ballot at Sylvia Tan’s centre — this too should not be a controversial decision.

Both examples 17 and 18 were considered valid (for the umbrella party) at her centre too,

whereas examples 19 and 20 were considered valid for the bunny ears party.

* * * * *

The law says the job of the adjudicator (which I call the “table chief”, though that is not his official title) is to determine the voter’s intention. The law also says that ballots should be marked with a cross, though other marks are acceptable.

Frankly, this is badly-drafted law. The problem is that the law allows so much latitude in markings that it triggers adjudication too much, and once adjudication is triggered, with no guidance except that of determining voter intention, wide inconsistency in interpretation is a natural outcome.

The two ideas I like best are:

(a) perforated hole(s) that the voter must remove completely (hanging chads to be considered invalid) like our parking coupons; or

(b) a self-inking rubber stamp is provided at each private voting booth and the only acceptable ballot is a stamp on a ballot paper that is ENTIRELY within a candidate’s box.

In both cases, angry voters can write whatever they want on the ballot paper, but all writings will be ignored. Make it as mechanistic as possible, so that it can be read by a computer.

63 Responses to “Counting agent me too”


  1. 1 David 10 May 2011 at 12:49

    ‘The law says the job of the adjudicator (which I call the “table chief”, though that is not his official title) is to determine the voter’s intention. The law also says that ballots should be marked with a cross, though other marks are acceptable.’

    If the adjudicator is consistent, then we should have nothing to worry about in term of fsirness. My worry is that the adjudicator is biased to one party.

    Your suggestions are good aand workable. Hope they will be considered for the next round of polling.

  2. 2 Ken 10 May 2011 at 12:55

    Or, more simply, the boxes to be checked should not be placed one below the other, or adjacent to each other, so that there will be no overlap in the marking made by a voter. Just as the ballot slip is folded in half prior to being cast, the ballot slip can be printed symmetrically, with one half for each party. Alex – any idea what the ballot slips in three-cornered contests look like?

  3. 3 ahmad 10 May 2011 at 13:20

    I would prefer the second option – self-inking rubber stamp, which is also used in Taiwan elections. But maybe Singaporeans would be more familiar with the first option, with so much experience tearing out parking coupons.

  4. 4 Paul 2 10 May 2011 at 13:27

    Example 14 strikes me as being especially open to contention. One might well interpret the voter’s intention as, “I’m not sure whether Umbrella Party is a good choice, but I definitely don’t want Pikachu Party!”

    (P.S. the perforated bits on parking coupons are “chads”, not “shads”)

  5. 5 Stngiam 10 May 2011 at 13:32

    I too volunteered as a counting agent but I had also served as an election official in the 2006 GE when I was still in the civil service. I volunteered for NSP because I figured they would be more likely to accept walk-ins than the other party running in my constituency. In the last GE when I was deployed in Tampines GRC there were only 1 or 2 NSP agents and they all went home before the count was over. Ironically, this time, at my counting centre, the NSP agents outnumbered the PAP ones and arrived earlier and left later.

    I have no complaints about the adjudication of questionable votes at my table.  If anything, where the guidelines allowed it, I thought he was more lenient towards the underdog in this fight. Generally speaking, civil servants are quite sensitive about accusations of bias, so this is not surprising. Though of course the key phrase is “where the guidelines allow it”

    I don’t see how Alex’s suggestion of having rubber stamps would help. People will still miss, and most people have far less experience with rubber stamps than with pens. Parking coupon style tear-off coupons would be worse. Remember the hanging chads in the 2000 US election ? Plus, tear-off coupons would mean that if a voter made a mistake or changed his mind, he would have to go back to the PO to get another ballot.

    The difference between #4 in your post and #18 in Sylvia’s is that #4 is clearly ambiguous and should be rejected.  Sylvia’s #18 example could be interpreted as the voter starting to mark the lower box then realizing he had a mistake or changed his mind and then fully marking the upper box. Without seeing the actual ballot paper and assessing the  weight and shape of the lower line, it would be hard to challenge the ARO’s decision. 

    Similarly, depending on the actual markings, it would be hard to say whether a cross that exceeded the box was accidental or a deliberately spoilt vote. I have to say I was amazed at how many people could draw crosses exactly intersecting the centre line, though the more common way of spoiling votes was to mark one cross in each box.

    One of the things that has always annoyed me about Singaporeans is their insistence for “clear guidelines” so that they don’t need to make any decisions. Most common in civil service but you see it outside too, and even here  in the various comments. At the end of the day, many things are judgement calls. It’s exactly this insistence on “clear guidelines” that results in farcical decisions like accepting “go to hell” as a valid vote for party A.  So empower the ARO and let him decide based on the facts and his judgement !!!

    Incidentally, I thought Low Thia Kiang was very classy in his victory speech in thanking the civil servants, police and SCDF officers and all the others who worked to ensure a smooth election. Pity the AROs – all of them would have been on duty  since 5 am and would  not be done till after the results are announced and ballot boxes locked away in the supreme court, by which time it would be almost 24 hours later.

    • 6 Stngiam 10 May 2011 at 13:44

      I am very glad that so many polling agents and counting agents have come forward to share their experiences (starting with Colin Goh way back in 2006). Together with Maruah’s voter education video, they help to demystify the process and educate voters. But all of this harping on spoilt ballots is unhelpful. The main takeaways are that the voting process is fair, is secret, and there are good reasons for things like serialized ballot papers and marking-off electoral registers. To the extent that publicizing examples of doubtful votes helps to remind voters to be careful next time, fair enough, but a lot of this seems to be sour grapes. Remember, those who want to take power or at least effect change through the electoral process have more interest in strengthening it rather than pulling it down.

    • 7 twasher 11 May 2011 at 00:32

      Hanging chads won’t be a problem so long as it’s made clear in the instructions that hanging chads won’t be considered a valid vote. The problem with voters changing their mind exists for the current system as well — you’d have to get a new ballot if you marked one box but decided to vote for the party in the other box.

    • 8 Stngiam 12 May 2011 at 12:33

      Correction- the party contesting Tampines in 2006 was SDA not NSP. My mistake.

  6. 9 MelG 10 May 2011 at 13:51

    Frankly, I am appalled at the level of inconsistency between counting tables or centres.

    Sure, Singaporeans would do well to properly educate themselves before they vote, but surely the Elections Dept has a responsibility to properly instruct their adjudicators as well.

    This is unacceptable, especially for close-call wards like Joo Chiat and PP. I hope something is done about the process before GE2016.

  7. 10 Ziggy 10 May 2011 at 15:08

    There are also inconsistencies within the voter registration system. I failed to vote 2 elections ago which resulted in my name being removed from the voter list. This elections, I decided I wanted to vote so I logged onto the elections department website. As expected, I was not registered. I completed the online registration form on my computer. I was required to print out the form and do either of the following:

    1) mail them a signed copy

    or

    2) fax it to them

    The information on the website stated that once the Elections Department received the form, they may request valid proof for my absence. In the case where I am unable to provide valid proof a fine of $50 would be imposed to have my name reinstated.

    I also received an email from the elections department the next day:

    “Could you please fax and sign the above form for our processing immediately. Thanks.”

    About 2 days later, I decided to print out the form. To my surprise, when I logged onto the the Elections Department website, I found my name to be already added to the voter list.

    I didn’t have to mail/fax any signed copy nor did I have to provide any reason for my absence(of which I had none). Nor did the Elections Department contact me again.

    So why on earth would they create so many rules which they were never going to enforce anyway? As you can see from my personal experience, the rules are complete BS.

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to allow eligible citizens who missed previous elections to register online without the hassle of printing out and mailing/faxing forms and worse, be subject to the threat of a fine? Better yet, they should allow all eligible citizens to register their names at the post office and/or community centres during each elections cycle as not everyone would have computer access.

  8. 11 pell 10 May 2011 at 15:10

    hi
    you know what ? my voting slip looks very different. there were no party logo. only names. at that time i felt odd, wanted to ask the officer present, but then brushed it off thinking ‘aw, cannot be so cock up one lah’.

    only when i returned home, watched TV, then realised there is supposed to be a logo next to the names.

    hmmm.. so what slip did i have ? mine considered a rejected vote then ?

    • 12 Joel 11 May 2011 at 12:00

      Hi Pell,

      Yes I noticed the same with my slip as well. Furthermore instead of an obvious box with a thick black border, the area to be crossed is a fully filled gray box instead. There were no party logos, only names of the candidates. I almost crossed the wrong party till I read the names carefully.

      My polling district is in East Coast GRC. I thought at the time that this is the new ballot papers used. Now that I think about it, it’s strange not to have party logos as people will be easily confused which box to cross.

      Can others confirm if this indeed is the new ballot paper or if it’s only confined to certain polling districts?

      • 13 Stngiam 12 May 2011 at 12:46

        Both of you must not have been paying attention or are trolling. If you believe what you are saying, make a police report alleging violation of section 40(3)(b) of the Parliamentary Elections Act. Considering that East Coast GRC was contested by two of the better organized parties in Singapore, do you think their agents would not have objected immediately if the symbols were missing ?

      • 14 Polling Agent K 15 May 2011 at 14:26

        reply to Stngiam: To clarify, polling agents of any party are not allowed by Senior Presiding officer to go near to the polling booth and box or even approach the voter to hear what advice is given by their Presiding officer when voter ask a question of him. We don’t know what each voter’s slip looks like. And I didn’t try to look at the voting slips issued by the officers who were seated on a different table.

        k

  9. 15 Thor 10 May 2011 at 15:35

    Actually Singapore is the one country which can easily carry our electronic voting. But the government is not going to do it as spoilt votes harm the opposition more. Just like they do not seem to emphasise the secrecy of the vote.

    • 16 anon 10 May 2011 at 22:36

      I’m not quite sure if that’s feasible, because the data can be tampered with electronically and there’s no way anybody can verify the result (since there are no physical records).

    • 17 anon 10 May 2011 at 22:58

      Additionally, if the data are available electronically, it would be trivial to manipulate and analyze them to find out which precincts voted for which party, or worse, who voted for whom.

      It would heighten the fear that your vote is not secret.

      In view of WikiLeaks, can you be 100% certain that nobody (the caretaker(s) of the information) will not leak out the sensitive information one fine day?

  10. 18 Blockhead 10 May 2011 at 15:37

    The lesson is just be careful when you mark the ballot paper! I’m not sure if the training provided for the adjudicators would be able to cover every possible permutation that voters are able to spit out. Give the adjudicators a break lah… After finding out what the civil servants involved in the polling had to go through, I really pity them!

  11. 19 Caramel Salt 10 May 2011 at 15:59

    A suggestion is to have a poster showing the correct way to cross inside the cubicle where voters make their choices.

    Perhaps it can reduce incidences due to genuine lack of knowledge.

    For those who want to spoil their votes,then there is nothing anyone can do about it.

    • 20 Lorong M 10 May 2011 at 21:16

      The poster idea has its drawback as it may influence people to follow the instruction on the poster. In other words, if the poster showed a cross in the upper box, voters – particularly the lesser educated ones – may be influenced to think they also have to mark a cross in the upper box in order that their vote is valid, without realising that they may thereby be voting for someone whom they didn’t intend to vote for. And I am sure the PE Act has something to criminalise any conduct that is likely to influence a person’s vote at a polling station.

  12. 21 observer 10 May 2011 at 16:12

    wwhat about electronic voting systems? surely they would make the whole process much easier?

  13. 22 roadlesstravelled 10 May 2011 at 16:51

    agree with you MelG. I am sure many people do not know about all these. It is indeed an eye-opener for me. It should be strictly adhered to that only a cross on the party’s box is a valid vote and nothing else. It is ridculous to consider “go to hell” written on a party’s box as valid.

  14. 23 LWT 10 May 2011 at 17:52

    @ Stngiam

    Definitely agree with you regarding chads, we won’t want to repeat the controversies of the 2000 Florida elections.

    Another option we should look at is to redesign the ballot itself such that different parties are not immediately adjacent (ie, there is ample empty space separating two parties). This way, even if the mark misses, the result would still be relatively clear. Marks that do not overlap with the valid regions should naturally be discarded.

    In any case, it is certainly preferable to produce a clear statement on how votes are interpreted.

  15. 24 Jack 10 May 2011 at 20:26

    You said –

    `The law also says that ballots should be marked with a cross, though other marks are acceptable.’

    This is incorrect.

    Section 42(3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act states –

    `The voter, on receiving the ballot paper, shall immediately proceed to such place in the station as may be indicated by the presiding officer or by any person acting under that officer’s authority, and shall there secretly mark the paper as near as may be in accordance with the directions given for the guidance of voters under this Act.’

    Section 50(2) states –

    `Where the Returning Officer is satisfied that any mark made on a ballot paper clearly indicates the intention of the voter and the candidate or group of candidates for whom he gives his vote, the Returning Officer shall not reject the ballot paper on the ground solely that it has not been marked in all respects in accordance with the directions given for the guidance of voters under this Act.’

    In other words, nothing in the Act states that only a cross on a ballot paper will constitute a valid vote. We should consign this as an urban legend once and for all.

    • 25 yawningbread 10 May 2011 at 22:35

      Read the Second Schedule to the Parliamentary Elections Act, entitled “Directions for Guidance of Voters in Voting”. It says: The voter will go into the place reserved for the marking of ballot papers and mark a cross in the space provided for the purpose on the right hand side of the ballot paper opposite the name of the candidate or, if the electoral division is a group representation constituency, the names of the group of candidates, for which he votes, thus, X.

  16. 26 Brendan 10 May 2011 at 21:11

    With the number of spoilt votes at an all time high, I hope WP tables an amendment to the Parliamentary Elections Act that spells a fine for those who willfully spoil their votes. Then a court order can be obtained to find out the perpentrators and prosecute them.

    If you don’t want to vote, then don’t vote. At most you get struck off the register. Don’t deprive others the chance to vote. Inconsiderate behaviour.

    • 27 Anonymous 10 May 2011 at 23:25

      why shouldn’t any one have the right to spoil his vote?

    • 28 twasher 11 May 2011 at 00:28

      Huh? Spoiling your vote does not deprive others of the chance to vote.

      • 29 RedHill 11 May 2011 at 16:04

        Brendan, understand your frustration and agree that one should not spoil vote when given a chance to vote.

        However, the notion of prosecution will invariably rattle the ‘FEAR’ factor of voting secrecy which up to today, some are still non-believers (maybe tats why they ‘spoil vote’?). Such motion for prosecution is thus definitely not in favor of the opposition parties. Cheers.

    • 30 Anonymous 12 May 2011 at 03:42

      This is a democracy. Supposedly.

      People have the right to vote for who they want to. They also have the right to spoil their votes.

      Stop advocating laws that make the current legislative system worse than it already is, stupid.

      Think before you post.

    • 31 Sotong 13 May 2011 at 20:54

      This is absolutely Stupid.

      Voting is compulsory by law.. so people who cannot decide between parties thus have the RIGHT to put a blank vote or spoil it..

      Putting a blank vote is dangerous (since it can be altered into a valid vote), so the next possible thing is spoil it.. this is the only method allowed to be “NEUTRAL”..

      It doesn’t deprive others a chance to vote.

      Nothing to do with consideration.

      Why must you be as inconsiderate as George W Bush in “You are either with us, or against us”.. What happened to “I don’t care” or “I am neutral”…

  17. 32 GracieBaby 10 May 2011 at 22:36

    The root of the problem is that many voters turn up grudgingly on polling day because they think voting is compulsory the way paying taxes is compulsory. We wouldn’t be dealing with this circus of adjudicating dubious ballot papers if voting was confined to those who valued their vote. Of course, PAP will want to perpetuate the misconception that voting is compulsory because they know that those who had a political opinion (and thus more likely to turn up to vote) are also more likely to be anti-PAP.

    Instead of trying to educate people to mark crosses correctly, we should be educating people to just stay home if they don’t feel like voting.

  18. 33 kirsten 10 May 2011 at 23:51

    We definitely need a clearer system that is not so open to interpretation. However, I think the most basic thing is that people need to realise that “anything other than an X is a spoilt vote” is not true. I don’t think the mainstream media has been quite upfront about making that information known. I don’t know what the reason is.

    There are many people who think that as long as it’s not an X in the box it’s a spoilt vote, which leads to a lot of people doing all sorts of things thinking they’re spoiling their vote, only to have it accepted.

    • 34 Jane 11 May 2011 at 15:36

      You’ve made a very interesting point about why the mainstream media aren’t more upfront about making the information known- especially the msm like the newspapers – esp New Paper – a CLEAR article would suffice. But they don’t and they haven’t.

      Like alot of people, I’ve always thought that anything other than a cross (X) would be a spoilt vote. But I can accept other things ticks, small cross, cross going slightly out of the box, as long as it’s all clearly within and for one party’s box. But I CANNOT accept that a ‘go to hell’ constitutes a vote for that party in whose box it is in. I also cannot accept a valid vote if both boxes are marked.

      But back to what you said about ‘i don’t know what the reason is’ (for the mainstream media) not having more voter education.

      It’s very obvious, isn’t it? Because it works to the advantage of the ruling party.

      So we need to publicise the fact (through social media etc) that a ‘go to hell’ on the party that you don’t like, will have the OPPOSITE effect you intended.

      Something so simple as a cross, and human beings can’t grasp it. Really, Darwin was right after all!! 😦

  19. 35 Ah Lian 11 May 2011 at 00:31

    I was told that in Malaysian elections, anything other than a cross that falls within the box is an invalid vote. Looks like our neighbours understand consistency better than us.

  20. 36 Dexter Wong 11 May 2011 at 11:52

    I would suggest drawing a circle to mark your vote instead of a “X” in which X might mean “No”. It is confusing. As long as the majority of the circle falls within the box, a bit of the circle that falls out of the box doesn’t matter. Drawing many circles and those not looking like a circle also counts as valid as long as they are within the box.

    Also there should be a space separating the parties.

    As a polling agent, I had seen presiding officers standing behind wheel-chaired persons while they vote. Have you seen a blind man vote? I had seen 2 cases of course assisted by the presiding officer (not their family members).

    • 37 edmundtan 12 May 2011 at 09:30

      I asked the Senior Presiding Officer at my station about the process for visually impaired. And she says that family members are not allowed to influence in the voting process.

      Thus, the presiding officers are there to assist if necessary. In my view, the presiding officers are pretty fair in their approach. They knew there was an extra pair of eyes (mine!) to witness if there was anything remotely fishy. Basically, they were on the ball.

      • 38 Dexter Wong 13 May 2011 at 01:45

        Family members are not allowed to influence the voting process but presiding officer can? I can say they will try to be as fair as possible but instances like this happened. Unless I can bend light, I cannot see exactly what is going on behind the polling booths.

        As long as the ELD is not under PMO I will treat the fairness of the voting process with a pinch of salt.

      • 39 Sophia 13 May 2011 at 17:25

        Special bumped ballots for the blind, so that they can “read” each box and know clearly which box to cross. Simple.

        If we have bumps on lift buttons and pavements. I think this should be a necessity too.

  21. 40 AJOHOR 11 May 2011 at 12:02

    Ah Lian

    In Malaysia, they have ghost voters (ie citizens who left/died/out of country), and they also have postal votes being stuffed from army and police camps being put to the ballot boxes by coalition in power.
    Would you prefer that???

  22. 41 Kudu 11 May 2011 at 13:02

    I often sit for MCQ exams with those computer-readable answer sheets where u shade in your choice. Maybe those can be use and the whole process made a little more hi-tech. Then it really doesn’t matter what you write etc – it’s which box you shaded that matters. If there are any anomalies, the computer would reject the slip. Then there will be more consistency across the counting centres. It’s strange, we are supposed to be dependent on people’s smarts for our economy to stay afloat (apparently) and yet the process hasn’t changed since the 1st time I vote in the nineties. My, how Singapore has changed…

    I do also like the suggestion to make the voting card like a parking coupon so one tears off a tab to indicated one’s choice. The now-famous BG(NS) Yam, perhaps the most famous Returning Officer in Singapore’s history, is the CEO (or something) of LTA. Maybe he can recommend to the erections department whoever prints our coupons (probably a subsidiary of TH) LOL!

  23. 42 Kudu 11 May 2011 at 13:09

    Also, on polling day, someone pointed out to me that there were no signs or posters at the polling centres instructing people how to mark their voting slips correctly. Perhaps this might be needed.

  24. 43 Jean 11 May 2011 at 13:42

    Best idea my friends and I have come up with so far is a “Shade the box you want” ballot slip, which is run through an automated reader. Which is exactly how people indicate numbers when they buy 4D!! Straightforward and foolproof, unless someone hacks the automated reader software. If Singapore Pools can do it, why can’t the Elections Dept?

  25. 44 whatu1 11 May 2011 at 15:37

    Here is a article in The Online Citizen commenting about Spoil Vote.

    http://www.todayonline.com/Hotnews/EDC110511-0000314/Second-lowest-rate-of-spoilt-votes-since-1988

    If the Table Chief is accepting all those “Go To Hell” votes, no wonder this year we have the second lowest spoilt votes since 1988!

    • 45 yawningbread 11 May 2011 at 18:27

      Please don’t overblow the “go to hell”type of ballot slip; I only saw one the whole evening. So, in the larger scheme of things, it’s not a big problem. The bigger problem is the inconsistency from one counting station to another about how to treat crosses that stray across the boundary from one party’s box to the other. There are possibly a hundred or more of these at each counting centre.

      • 46 Kudu 12 May 2011 at 06:39

        My wife and I found the “go to hell” thingee hilarious because it’s like scoring an own goal in soccer.

        No doubt there will not be very many of these, they could sometimes make a difference. Imagine 100 or so people saying “go to hell” to Sitoh. Maybe that’s why he won.😀

        Nevertheless, perhaps there is a need for some “reform” in the way we do voting and counting.

      • 47 whatu1 12 May 2011 at 13:32

        I agree with you Alex that one example does not make the whole pot of soup.. However, would like to highlight this election has the least number of spoilt votes. In yesteryears, may be due to the overwhelming popularity of the incumbent, they could afford counting defaced votes as spoilt votes. For the recently concluded, maybe they understand the resentment on the grounds and adopted a “broader” bandwidth of tolerance. “If you spoil your votes, it is mine” attitude perhaps.

      • 48 yawningbread 12 May 2011 at 18:29

        Your hypothesis relies on this initial assertion of fact: ” would like to highlight this election has the least number of spoilt votes.” Please cite a source.

    • 49 whatu1 13 May 2011 at 01:15

      Alex. Source of second lowest rate of spoilt votes since 1988 is from todayonline.com. Not hypothesis. Just reference to the newspaper article.

  26. 50 Peter 11 May 2011 at 17:06

    Was talking to a friend about the use of shading a box like what we do in examinations in school or buying 4D. We shade the right answers or the numbers we want, surely everyone knows how to do that.

  27. 51 anon 11 May 2011 at 17:53

    Another method of voting is to scratch the surface (any shape such as circle or square) of the voting card to reveal the party’s name or logo. So a typical voting ticket would reveal two parties A and B and beside each party’s name or logo is a circle or square that the voter must scratch to indicate his or her choice.

    A valid vote is one where there’s only one revealed circle or square.

  28. 52 X' Ho 11 May 2011 at 18:16

    Since this is Singapore where all have been taught & reminded to work for “the common good” – and where giving thieves money is the best way to prevent them from robbing – how can we be sure that the staffers at the counting table are not strategically advised to ‘miscount’ for the good of the nation? Is it not possible at all? Who dares defy the wise old one or the CID? This is, of course, a QUESTION – y’know for the sake of transparency!

    • 53 edmundtan 12 May 2011 at 09:26

      If you have concerns, I’m sure you can put them all to rest by volunteering as a polling agent and/ or counting agent.

      I did both and am pleased to say that the entire process is fair and transparent.

      The only way forward confidently is not to feed irrational fears.

    • 54 Dexter Wong 12 May 2011 at 12:32

      In banks I saw that there are machines counting the bills, I wonder do they have any machines that will count the number of votes at the counting centre? Are they still counting using human fingers this time?

  29. 56 Nelspruit 12 May 2011 at 04:46

    In a GRC, I doubt the dubious votes or spoilt votes are an issue. It’s only in SMCs. Anyway I don’t think any changes should be made to the PEA. 1 should start on the principle that Laws shouldn’t be chopped and changed. In fact our beloved Govt have chopped and changed too many laws in my opinion, and every time they do, I don’t think it will benefit the Opp.
    So I ‘d rather they leave the PEA laws as it currently stands, the fact that we haven’t had any challenge in 52 years, even with people like JBJ who wouldn’t stand for any funny stuff, shows it’s basically alright.
    The only question now is in Potong Pasir and Joo Chiat to a lesser extent. I add to say that the petition thing is wrong in law. You don’t need 8000 voters or 1/2 of the electorate to mount a challenge. You only need 1 voter in that constituency or the candidate to mount a challenge.
    But for that challenge to have grounds to appeal to an Election Judge, they would need the counting agents at the Pootng Pasir counting centre (s) to come forward and state there were many votes (for Sitoh) that should have been rejected or certain votes that should have been counted for Lina. This number must be between the range of 70-114 to have any impact on the final tally itself. Also one must note that the ARO’s decision on spoilt votes if Final, no judge can review that, so the 242 spoilt votes will always be spoilt.
    Chiam and wife have come out to suggest that they don’t see how this could be done, so there seems to be the possibility that there just isn’t enough such votes in Pasir Pasir to overturn Sitoh’s lead.
    I hope this isn’t the case, but 1 thing everyone must know that such challenges don’t come cheap and there’s still the possibility it won’t succeed. I can’t recall any case off hand of Opp members winning cases against the PAP, so for this to succeed, represents another first.

  30. 57 Yawning Pig 12 May 2011 at 08:22

    Hi yawningbread, just to inform you that “table chief” (being the unofficial term that you used) has a religious connotation – I believe quite a number of local Chinese will recognize the term, when translated into Hokkien.

  31. 58 cone 12 May 2011 at 16:47

    The original post and this one are very interesting. I just want to put an idea out there which is taken from the ancient Athenian democracy. When they needed to vote on something, and they wanted to ensure no one was intimidated, what they did was to issue two stones to each citizen present. One stone would be marked yes, the other no. They would then file past two jars. One jar would be for discarded votes, while the other jar would be for the votes that would be counted. So, if I wanted to vote yes, I would drop the NO stone into the jar for discarded votes, and drop the YES stone into the other jar.

    How might this work in a modern society? You print one voting slip for every single candidate/group of candidates contesting. So, in a three way contest, you print three slips, one for each candidate. After the voter has his details checked etc., he is issued these three slips. There will be two boxes, one marked DISCARDS, the other VOTE (or something more clever). You take the slips for the two parties you don’t want to vote for and throw them into the DISCARD box. Then you walk to the VOTE box, and prove to an official that you only have one slip, and drop that into the VOTE box.

    There. No more disputes about intention of the marks! By the way, forgive me if this idea has surfaced already, but it’s too tedious reading through the comments.

  32. 59 Cassie 13 May 2011 at 00:18

    Hi Alex,

    I was a counting agent in France. The system here is far less ambiguous: voters are given one envelope each and several slips with the different parties’ names on them. The voter simply has to put the slip with his preferred party’s name on it in the envelope, and then put the envelope in the voting box.

    In such a system, examples of spoilt votes are:
    -voting slips that are shredded before being put in the envelope
    -envelopes that are submitted blank
    -envelopes containing the slips of two or more parties.

  33. 60 Raine Young 13 May 2011 at 11:08

    I was a counting agent too.

    There were very few votes where the markings were unclear, uncertain or unconventional.

    Where there was any uncertainty, the table head would show the ballot to the counting agents of both parties. In every case at my table, both counting agents agreed with the decision of the table head. A friend of mine was at another centre, where there was a disagreement on only two votes. Eventually, one went to the opposition and one to the PAP.

    To say that the decisions on the “uncertain” votes affected the result is a desperate attempt to question the result. The numbers are just too small. Further, why presume that the decision always favours the PAP or that those who play with their votes are opposition supporters?

    The election is over and all parties (save one) have accepted their defeats graciously. It appears that for some, the process only has integrity if the result is favourable.

  34. 61 2nd chance 13 May 2011 at 23:27

    a fair and conclusive system is to allow a re-election to be carried out if there’s a close call like PP and JC.

  35. 62 reservist_cpl 16 May 2011 at 01:43

    Hi Alex,

    I think you’ve got good ideas but they’re problematic for older voters.

    a – Hanging chads might be common, incompletely removed
    b – Requirement that stamp must be in 1 box – hands might tremble (this was very common; I was also a polling agent).

    DRE voting is good too, and we’ve already got the legislation; unfortunately that would raise suspicions about vote secrecy.

    I think the present system is not too bad, just that perhaps there needs to be some legislation to limit discretion e.g. “in determining a voter’s intention, the officer shall consider the following factors
    (a) if the cross is partially inside more than one box, the relative proportions of the area covered by the cross in each box which it spans
    (b)…
    () where, for any vote, the officer is not able to decide the voter’s intention on any of the grounds hereinbefore enumerated in this section such vote shall be rejected”

    And to improve transparency they may be required to issue written reasons for decision upon the request of a counting agent (maybe this could be decided by the SARO – only for really contentious cases and the serial number must not be recorded), this can simply be a form with checkboxes (for grounds decided on as specified in statute) with a blank for elaboration. These decisions could later be examined, maybe by the main counting centre, and the vote counts adjusted accordingly.

    I quite liked the slightly adversarial nature of the counting agent’s job though; get rid of all uncertainty and the job would be a lot more boring.🙂

  36. 63 William Xavier 17 May 2011 at 17:48

    The election department should revise their writeup on Ballot secrecy at http://www.elections.gov.sg/voters_ballotsecrecy.html .

    It mentions, “So, is ballot secrecy compromised by reason of having a serial number? Theoretically, it is possible for anyone with access to the ballot papers to identify who cast a particular vote. The link between the ballot paper number and the electoral register through the counterfoil does facilitate tracing from a ballot paper to a voter’s identity on the register. However, ballot papers can be examined only under strict conditions, and there are safeguards that make it extremely difficult to find out how any particular voter voted. ”

    Now why talk about a ‘Theoretically possible’ scenario??!! Isn’t the theoretically possible scenario the cause behind the fear of most people who don’t think their vote is a secret? There are so many theoretically possible scenarios including ridiculous ones such as, “if a person has a sufficiently big private army, he can take over the polling station and find out who voted for which party.”

    Hope Maruah can look into this and advise the Election Department.


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