Parliament: Electoral boundaries committee not set up yet, changes to polling afoot

The update was given on July 8, 2019 in a written response to a parliamentary question by Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC), who asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong if the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee had been formed or when it will be set up. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A committee that reviews the boundaries of electoral wards, one of the most telling signs an election is near, has not been appointed.

Meanwhile, several changes to how voters can cast their ballots at polling stations are being considered. Among them, voters may be marking out their ballots at the next general election in low-cost environmentally friendly polling booths made with recyclable materials.

These updates were given on Monday (July 8) in written responses to two parliamentary questions.

Workers' Party chief Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) had asked Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong if the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee had been formed or when it will be set up.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, answering on behalf of PM Lee, said: "The Prime Minister has not yet appointed the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee."

The formation of the committee, which looks at demographic changes to decide how electoral wards should be demarcated, is taken as a strong indication that a general election is round the corner. The committee has typically taken between two and seven months to release its report.

In 2015, PM Lee announced its formation in July, in response to MPs' questions. This was two months after the committee had been appointed.

The committee completed its work and submitted its report on July 21 that year to PM Lee. The general election was called about a month later, on Aug 25.

Meanwhile, Mr Png Eng Huat (Hougang) asked PM Lee for updates on new initiatives planned for the next general election, such as the e-registration of voters, and whether any other changes would be made to how polling will be done.

Mr Chan said that the Elections Department (ELD) had worked with students from the Singapore Institute of Technology on a prototype of the booth, adding that it "appears promising". The ELD is in the process of finalising the design.

Other initiatives include a portable booth which voters on wheelchairs can place on their laps to mark their ballot papers, and self-inking pens which imprint an "X".

On the pens, Mr Chan said it would allow voters to "mark their choice clearly and easily without ambiguity". He added that the pens also require minimum pressure to release ink, making it easy for everyone, including the elderly, to use.

"During vote counting, the use of this self-inking pen will reduce the need for Assistant Returning Officers to adjudicate ballot papers, since the voters' choice is clearly marked," he said.

Mr Chan also said that representatives of political parties will get to try out and provide feedback on the new equipment later this year.

The ELD will then run roadshows for voters to get familiarised with the new equipment.

In the last two years, the ELD had also announced initiatives - including e-registration for voters, as well as counting machines to tally votes - to improve the election process.

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