Your Vote Is Secret
Voting and Ballot Secrecy
Have you heard people say that your vote is not secret? The short answer is that individual votes cannot be traced, unless an order of court is obtained under very specific circumstances.
Below are some frequently asked questions about the voting process.
Q: Why does the election official call out my name and voter number at the polling station before giving me the ballot paper? I find it unsettling.
A: This is required under the Parliament Elections Act. Calling out you name and number enables the representatives of political parties at the polling station to verify and cross out your name on their registers. This is a transparent process to help both the ruling and opposition parties in 2 ways – to check against double-voting by any voter, and to tally the total number of votes and the number of ballot papers issued out at the close of voting.
Q: Why must the ballot papers have serial numbers?
A: This is a good way to guard against election fraud such as bringing counterfeit ballot papers into the polling station, vote impersonation or basing ballot papers which have been marked by others. We are not the only country in the world to have ballot papers numbered.
Q: After I have cast my vote, what happens to it?
A: After the close of polls at 8 pm, the votes are sealed and moved to the counting centres where they will be counted by civil servants from different departments in the presence of the candidates and agents from both ruling party and opposition. Once counted, the votes, together with all the relevant records, the stubs of the ballot papers as well as unused ballot papers are sealed and transferred to the vault at the Supreme Court where they are kept for at least 6 months. The votes cannot be retrieved unless a court order is obtained on the ground of election fraud.
According to the Elections Department website, no court order has been issued to retrieve votes since Singapore conducted elections in 1948.
At the end of 6 months, the sealed votes and records will be transferred to an incineration plant for destruction. The whole procedure is witnessed by candidates/agents from all parties. The Workers’ Party has been present and has found the seals on the votes and records intact. The Workers’ Party is satisfied about voting secrecy.
Q: After the election, politicians started saying that certain communities / blocks supported the ruling party or the opposition party. This shows that the votes are not secret.
A: Nobody knows how each individual voted. Each polling station serves about 10-20 blocks of flats and/or a few landed housing estates. Since the counting of votes is done by polling stations, it is possible to know the overall results of each polling station, which consists of a few thousand votes. The voting results, sorted by polling stations, are accessible to all political parties contesting in that constituency. It is possible to say a particular zone of residents supported a political party by x%, but it is not possible to narrow down the level of support to a particular block or an individual. The comments of politicians may be based on ground feel and feedback.
Q: How else can you reassure me that my vote is secret?
A: The Workers’ Party has participated in every General Election since the independence of Singapore. Based on our experience, we are certain that the vote is secret.
For anyone who is still in doubt, do bear in mind that tampering with the electoral process is illegal and tantamount to breaking the law. Doing so is not in the interest of the government as its power and legitimacy will be in question and its reputation tarnished locally and internationally. The government actually has more to lose if it fails to ensure that the vote is secret.