Don't trade security for convenience

The Elections Department recently revealed that it was testing a system that will electronically registervoters during elections (Elections Dept to pilot electronic voter registration; May 20).

Thanks to the efforts of the civil service, Singapore has a very efficient and fuss-free polling process, without problems which even some well-established democracies face - long queues, voter fraud and other electoral misconduct.

However, there is always a trade-off between security and efficiency.

Elections officials must guard against not just the risk of external interference but also the misconduct of voters and candidates.

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To ensure that a person is entitled to vote and to prevent him or her from voting more than once, presiding officers check the electoral register and physically mark against the name of the voter.

Crucially, this is done within earshot of polling agents appointed by candidates so that the polling agents may also check against their own copies of the electoral register.

Whether registration is done electronically or manually, it is imperative that polling agents have an independent means of verifying a voter's eligibility and of preventing plural voting.

The goal of reducing waiting time is laudable but this cannot be allowed to undermine the safeguards in our system against electoral fraud.

We urge the Elections Department to publicise any proposed changes to voting procedures far in advance of implementation and to take feedback from the public, political parties and other stakeholders into account before making any changes.

Ngiam Shih Tung
Vice-President
Maruah

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2017, with the headline 'Don't trade security for convenience'. Print Edition | Subscribe