SINGAPORE - About 2,565,000 voters, or 96 per cent of registered voters, have cast their votes at polling stations in Singapore as of 8pm, the Elections Department (ELD) said.
"This turnout is higher than the turnout during the 2015 General Election, which was 2,304,331 votes cast (93.56% of registered voters) at the close of poll," ELD said.
ELD had earlier announced the extension of voting hours to 10pm to cater for the long queues in a small number of polling stations, and to allow enough time for all voters to cast their votes.
At a polling station in Serangoon Avenue 2 in Marine Parade GRC, Mr Sanguni Muniady, 93, took about 30 minutes to cast his vote. A queue of 20 people had formed when he arrived at 8.05am.
Still, he found the voting process more efficient now, compared to the past.
While queues were seen at some polling stations, voters who turned up early described a fast and smooth voting process earlier in the day.
At Chung Cheng High School (Main) in Goodman Road, Mr Isfahan, a full-time national serviceman, was the first to cast his vote when the polls opened at the school, a polling station in Mountbatten SMC.
"It was a very smooth process, and I came early because I am on a morning shift today," said the 23-year-old first-time voter, who declined to give his full name.
People's Action Party incumbent Lim Biow Chuan is defending the single seat constituency, which has 24,267 voters, for a third term. Challenging him for the seat is Mr Sivakumaran Chellappa of Peoples Voice, a private educator and first-time candidate.
Madam Karthi, 70, and her husband, Mr Kannappan, 86, said they took about 10 minutes to go through the entire voting process at Chung Cheng High School (Main), after arriving at about 8.25am. The couple did not give their full names.
"It was smooth and very organised, and it was very comfortable for the seniors," said Mr Kannappan.
Another voter, Madam Heng Siew Khim, 73, was also among the first at the school, and was accompanied by her husband, Mr Low Boon Huat, 75.
Mr Low said in Mandarin that they showed up early as he was kiasu (fear of losing out) and wanted to beat the crowd, adding that he was heading to Bedok North to open his joss paper shop after casting his ballot.
The couple said the voting process was similar to previous elections except that precautionary measures in view of the Covid-19 pandemic were introduced this time round.
They added that they felt "very safe, and not inconvenienced in any way" by the extra measures.
Mr K. K. Tan, who is in his late 70s, said the early voting time-bands for seniors had made it very convenient for the elderly to vote, as many of them wake up early.
He said: "We were spaced out, and there were seats for us to sit and wait, so everything was very comfortable."
Ms Cheryl Goh, a 36-year-old bank executive, said the voting process at the Poi Ching School polling station where she voted was smooth, but it could have been faster if the queue was more orderly.
She said: “The queue was snaking around which made it rather cumbersome to move. But even with around 60 people inside, it took me less than 15 minutes to vote.”
Marketing executive June Oh, who also voted at Poi Ching School, said she observed seniors struggling with the self-inking pen. “Some of them tried to use it as a pen, not knowing that it’s a chop,” said the 25-year-old. “But there were officials there to help them.”
The ELD had arranged for measures to ensure the safety of voters amid the coronavirus pandemic.
For example, each voter has a recommended time-band to cast his ballot on polling day, so as to spread out the crowd across polling hours.
To minimise their interaction with younger voters, senior voters aged 65 and above have been assigned time-bands between 8am and 12 noon, said the ELD.
As many as 2.65 million Singaporeans are expected to vote in the general election. They will cast their votes at 1,100 polling stations across the country.
A total of 10 opposition parties and one independent candidate are challenging the ruling People's Action Party in this election, where Singaporeans will pick 93 Members of Parliament.
Seats in all 17 GRCs and 14 SMCs are being contested.
Shortly after 7pm, ELD said in a press release that voting hours have been extended to 10pm.
Special measures were introduced at polling stations to ensure the safety of voters amid the coronavirus pandemic, especially the elderly.
Family members voting at the same polling station may accompany the senior to vote, but only one accompanying family member will be accorded priority voting, along with the senior voter.
Seniors who are unable to vote in the morning time-bands may do so after 12 noon, and will still be placed in a priority queue and given assistance by election officials if needed.
A special voting hour for those who are sick or are serving their stay-home notice at home will take place between 7pm and 8pm.
At polling stations, the temperature of each voter will be recorded. Those with a temperature of 37.5 deg C and above will be turned away, and asked to return during the special voting hour.
Voters are also required to sanitise their hands and to wear gloves before receiving their ballot papers, while the ELD said that polling equipment will be sanitised regularly.
This election also marks the introduction of self-inking pens following feedback in previous elections that some voters, especially seniors, had difficulty gripping regular pens to mark their votes.
The pens allow voters to easily mark an "X" on the ballot paper by applying pressure, like a chop.
On Tuesday, the ELD said that the marks made by self-inking pens on ballot papers for the election will not become invisible, debunking false claims that were circulating online.
Voters may also bring their own pens to mark the ballot papers if they wish.
The ELD will first reveal "sample count" results for each of the 17 GRCs and 14 SMCs after polls close.
A hundred ballot papers from each polling station will be randomly chosen by a counting assistant in the presence of the candidates and their counting agents.
The votes will be added up and weighted based on the number of votes cast at each polling station. The sample count for each constituency will be shown as a percentage of the valid votes earned by the candidates.
Sample counts are generally about 95 per cent accurate, plus or minus four percentage points. The first sample count results will probably come from the SMCs where there are fewer voters and could be released from about 10pm.