Govt says empty ballot boxes left in school not a lapse of procedure or breach of law

THE discovery last month that five empty ballot boxes used for the 2011 Presidential Election had been left in a school did not indicate any lapse in electoral procedure or breach of the law, Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing said in Parliament on Monday.

"This is because after the close of polling, ballots are transferred into different boxes at the counting centres, and the empty boxes left behind cease to be controlled items," he said in response to a question from Workers' Party MP Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC).

Mr Chan was answering the question on behalf of the Prime Minister.

The five boxes found in the school in the Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC were of this type, he noted. These empty boxes and other elections paraphernalia, such as leftover writing material, are meant to be collected from polling stations and disposed of by contractors.

But a check that the Elections Department (ELD) has since conducted of 164 schools used as polling stations revealed several boxes left behind in five other schools.

While stressing that this is not a lapse in electoral procedure, Mr Chan said that he has asked ELD to review how to tighten this process of the disposal of empty boxes.

Asked by Mr Singh and Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Alex Yam if empty ballot boxes should be re-classified as "controlled items" and thus incinerated six months after the election together with the ballots, Mr Chan disputed that this was necessary.

After the ballots are transferred out of these boxes, they are "just like any other boxes," he said.

rchang@sph.com.sg