GE2015: Elections Department to announce sample counts of how votes are cast on Sept 11

Counting assistants pouring out a ballot box for vote counting purposes during the 2011 General Election.
Counting assistants pouring out a ballot box for vote counting purposes during the 2011 General Election. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Next Friday (Sept 11), Singaporeans will get an indication of how votes in a constituency were cast at the general election even before the full counts are completed.

The Elections Department (ELD) said on Wednesday (Sept 2) that it will make public the results of sample counts for each of the 16 GRCs and 13 SMCs soon after polling stations close at 8pm on Polling Day, Sept 11.

This means voters will get a rough idea of the results - except for those in close contests - from around 10pm, instead of having to wait past midnight, as in previous elections.

The release of these results - which are fairly indicative of the final percentages - aims to prevent speculation or misinformation from unofficial sources while counting is underway, ELD said in a poster released on Wednesday.

The random sample count also helps election officials to check against the final election result for that  group representation constituency (GRC) or single-member constituency (SMC).

But because it is a sample - and especially in constituencies where the results are close - the election result could be different.

The public should still wait for the Returning Officer's announcement to know the final election result, ELD added.

The Straits Times understands that sample counts have a confidence level of 95 per cent, plus or minus 4 percentage points.

This GE will be the first time sample counts will be made public. Such counts were done in previous general elections as an internal check, and were first made known to candidates and their counting agents in the 2011 presidential election.

Here is how the process, to be conducted at the 163 counting centres, works:

- At the start of the counting process, a random bundle of 100 ballot papers will be selected for each of the 833 polling stations.

- A counting assistant will count the number of votes for each candidate, or group of candidates for a GRC, before the candidates and counting agents present.

- The votes will be added up, with weightage given to account for the difference in the number of votes cast at each polling station.

- A sample count will then be shown as a percentage of valid votes garnered by each candidate, or group of candidates.

- The assistant returning officer will then record the votes and share it with candidates and their agents.

- A sample count for the GRC or SMC will be released to the media and published on the ELD website.

Voters can also expect two other changes come Polling Day.

First, a new ballot paper design bearing the photographs of the candidates will be used. It will have white boxes against a blackened background, and wider gaps between the boxes so as to prevent voters from marking across boxes in different rows.

The Straits Times understands that all candidates have submitted their photographs before the 2pm deadline on Nomination Day on Tuesday.

Second, the ELD is taking steps to make it easier for the elderly, physically-disabled and visually-impaired to vote.

Polling station sites have been chosen based on factors such as safety, security and accessibility, with most at void decks and precinct pavilions.

There will be special drop-off points near the voting areas for vehicles conveying elderly voters or physically-disabled. A priority queue will be set up for these voters at the polling stations.

Wheelchairs will also be provided for those who need them, and polling booths will be equipped with a lower deck for these voters to more easily mark their vote.

For the visually-impaired, stencils will be provided so that they can mark the ballot paper themselves without assistance.