Covid-19 safety measures led to long queues at polling stations: ELD
Covid-19 precautions took time, and allocating voting time-bands did not spread turnout evenly
A confluence of factors including insufficient resources at large polling stations and delays caused by Covid-19 measures led to the long queues seen on Polling Day, the Elections Department (ELD) has found.
Concluding a review of what had gone wrong on July 10, ELD said yesterday that the Covid-19 safety measures contributed to inefficiency but were necessary and effective.
No community infections arose from participation in the election.
The number of polling stations was increased from 832 in 2015 to 1,097 this year to allow for safe distancing. Some 36,000 election officials (EOs) were deployed, up 20 per cent from the previous election.
But local turnout was the highest since 1997, at 95.63 per cent, and lines at polling stations led to voting hours being extended from 8pm to 10pm, an unprecedented move that opposition parties criticised.
ELD later apologised for the inconvenience caused to voters and pledged to study the matter.
Reviewing data and consulting EOs, it found that 47 of the 1,097 polling stations saw long queues throughout the day.
Measures such as temperature taking, the use of disposable gloves and hand sanitising took up time, and the 1m safe distancing rule lengthened queues.
Close to one in five polling stations had longer than usual queues in the morning.
The situation improved by 11am after ELD did away with the need for disposable gloves.
Allocating voting time-bands, such as morning slots for seniors, did not succeed in spreading voter turnout evenly.
A third of the voters who turned up in the morning were non-seniors, and the high concentration of seniors during that time also slowed things down as more needed help from EOs.
Some polling stations with significantly higher proportions of younger voters saw long queues later in the day, in part due to the shorter voting time for them. ELD said 68 polling stations saw sustained queues in the afternoon.
Covid-19 measures also aggravated the situation at large polling stations, which should have had more EOs and voter e-registration devices, ELD said.
Of the 25 polling stations with more than 4,400 voters, 22 had long queues.Some premises had two polling stations and their queues merged into one.
Voter registration also took longer as voters had to scan their NRICs themselves, despite being unfamiliar with the new e-registration devices. Before Covid-19, the plan was for EOs to do the scanning.
In general, the devices sped up the process, but procurement was done before the coronavirus broke out and the vendor could not supply more for the increased number of polling stations in time.
For future elections, ELD said it will increase the reserve pool of EOs so as to quickly handle contingencies, including unforeseen long queues.
ELD said it will see how best to spread out senior and non-senior voters if allocated time-bands are used, instead of concentrating all senior voters in the morning. It will also review the location and set-up of polling stations.
Large polling stations will be split where feasible, or be better organised and resourced.
More e-registration devices will be provided and more robust redundancies to replace faulty ones will be put in place.
ELD said: "Through this review, ELD has drawn lessons from GE2020 and will put them right for future elections."
Three in 10 voters not satisfied with experience at GE2020: ELD
It is unacceptable that three in 10 voters were not satisfied with their experience at polling stations during this year's election, the Elections Department (ELD) said yesterday as it vowed to improve its systems and processes for future polls.
As part of its review of what went wrong on Polling Day, ELD commissioned government feedback unit Reach to conduct a post-election survey of 1,000 Singapore citizens, aged 21 and above, and found that seven in 10 were satisfied with their experience at the polls.
A large majority of voters felt the process was well organised and election officials were helpful - 78 and 77 per cent respectively - and about 80 per cent spent less than 30 minutes voting.
But voters at schools and community centres, which housed larger polling stations, had a poorer experience because of waiting times.
Said ELD: "We apologise for this, and thank voters for their patience... We would also like to thank all election officials for their dedication and hard work.
"They gave their best under difficult conditions, and did well in ensuring that the polling process remained fair, robust and safe for Singaporeans despite Covid-19."
Snaking queues were not the only issue on July 10.
The Singapore Democratic Party called for an independent inquiry after a woman from Holland-Bukit Timah GRC, known only as Madam Lum, was wrongly told she had already voted.
ELD later reached out to Madam Lum to apologise and said the mistake was due to human error and miscommunication between two election officials.
ELD also had to apologise to 13 voters serving stay-home notices in hotels who did not get to vote as their names were inadvertently omitted from a list submitted on Polling Day. - KOK YUFENG
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