Straits Times: Is the vote secret? Of course, says Low Thia Khiang

BUDGET DEBATE – DAY 3

BY LI XUEYING

OPPOSITION MP Low Thia Khiang does believe that the vote in Singapore is secret.

“Of course I do believe the vote is secret, otherwise I will not even want to participate in elections!” declared the smiling Workers’ Party secretary-general, to laughter in the House.

In response, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said: “Well, I’m happy to hear Mr Low saying and confirming here in this House that he believes that the vote is secret and I believe Ms Sylvia Lim, the party chairman also thinks the vote is secret.”

The exchange started when Mr Low (Hougang) asked Mr Wong about plans for a voter education campaign.

Mr Wong had earlier, during the debate on the budget for the Prime Minister’s Office, said educational brochures will be mailed to every home.

Videos will also be produced for TV and Internet broadcast, and for distribution at community centres.

Saying that he was pleased with this news, Mr Low noted that there are still some Singaporeans who are “wary” about the vote’s secrecy, particularly given the serial numbers printed on ballot papers.

He asked if the campaign would address this.

Mr Wong said: “Before I answer the question, maybe I’ll ask Mr Low whether he thinks that the vote is secret.”

Yes, said Mr Low.

Mr Wong responded with a smile: “So there’s no question about the integrity of the voting process as well as the secrecy of the vote.”

He then explained the need for serial numbers.

“When there is a dispute, for example, there’re more votes counted than there are voters in the constituency, then we’d know whether ballot papers have been stuffed into the ballot boxes and we can then trace every number and see where these extra papers come from.”

But he assured: “There is no way of tracing who (cast the ballot) unless the court so orders when there is a dispute in terms of the vote.”

Voters will be educated on this issue, he added.

Mr Wong also addressed a query from Ms Lim, who asked if overseas Singaporeans could vote earlier, so that their ballots are counted with local votes.

She said: “My concern was that in some single seats especially, the number of overseas voters could be as low as two, so there may be some concern about anonymity.”

Mr Wong replied that such a move will mean overseas Singaporeans will have just four to five days of listening to campaign speeches and so “may not have enough information to form a conclusion”.

Thus, it will “not be fair” for them to vote so early.

He allowed the possibility of putting aside some votes in Singapore to be mixed with the overseas ones.

“But again it will also mean a delay in the announcement of the results of those constituencies.”

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