Elections Department to pilot electronic voter registration

The Elections Department's pilot system involves scanning the barcode on a voter's identity card. Laptops used will not be connected to the Internet to ensure the system is secure from cyber attacks.
The Elections Department's pilot system involves scanning the barcode on a voter's identity card. Laptops used will not be connected to the Internet to ensure the system is secure from cyber attacks.PHOTO: ELECTIONS DEPARTMENT

New system will reduce voters' waiting time and number of election officials needed

In future elections, voters could get to register electronically on Polling Day, so that their attendance need not be recorded the pen-and-paper way.

Currently, election officials manually search for and strike off a voter's name on a printed copy of the polling station register.

The e-registration plan was unveiled yesterday at a public service exhibition at Mandarin Orchard hotel which coincides with the annual Excellence in Public Service awards ceremony.

In response to media queries, the Elections Department (ELD) saidit will pilot a system that will scan the barcode on a voter's identity card.

It did not give any more details about the pilot project.

Such a system will shorten the waiting time for voters at polling stations and halve the number of election officials needed for registration at these stations, said the ELD.

But as the electronic system is only for registration, voting will still be done by marking paper ballots with a pen.

The proposed move was one of several projects on display at booths at the one-day exhibition yesterday.

The exhibits help public officers learn about innovative ideas their colleagues have been working on. All the projects were started in the past year and are, or will be, on trial.

To ensure the e-registration system is secure from cyber attacks, laptops used will not be connected to the Internet, said the ELD.

To assure voters their vote remains a secret, the layout of polling stations will be changed to separate the registration of voters and the issuing of ballot papers.

The new process lets registered voters go to any counter in the polling area to get a ballot paper, and to deposit their completed voting slip in any available ballot box.

Now, voters are assigned a specific counter in the polling station.

Also, the information stored in the laptops will be available only to ELD and election officials.

To prevent people from registering twice, the system will alert the election official if a registered voter turns up again to register himself.

Asked if e-registration will be rolled out at the presidential election in September this year, the ELD said that it "plans to pilot e-registration at a future election to test out the procedure and gather feedback". It said it has yet to call for a tender for its pilot project.

The scanning of identity cards for registration has been used by other public services for some time. Visitors at hospitals can scan their identity cards at electronic gantries to enter the wards. A patient can also register for his appointment at a polyclinic by scanning his identity card at self-service kiosks.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 20, 2017, with the headline 'Elections Dept to pilot electronic voter registration'. Print Edition | Subscribe