Singapore to try out digital method of voter registration under a pilot programme

Elections Department (ELD) will pilot an e-registration system that will scan the barcode on a voter's national registration identity card (NRIC).
Elections Department (ELD) will pilot an e-registration system that will scan the barcode on a voter's national registration identity card (NRIC). PHOTO: ELD

SINGAPORE - 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 will manually search for and strike off a voter's name on the printed copy of the polling station register.

The e-registration plan was unveiled on Friday (May 19) at a public service exhibition at Mandarin Orchard Hotel that coincides with the annual Excellence in Public Service awards ceremony.

The Elections Department (ELD) said in response to media queries it will pilot a system that will scan the barcode on a voter's national registration identity card (NRIC).

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

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

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

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

The booths let public officers know about the innovative ideas their colleagues have been working on. All 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 to 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 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 NRICs for registration have been used by other public services for some time.

Visitors to hospitals can scan their NRIC at electronic gantries to enter the wards.

A patient can also register for his appointment at a polyclinic by scanning his NRIC at self-service kiosks.