Parliament: Proposed law to allow special arrangements for voters and candidates affected by Covid-19 restrictions

The Elections Department said that the health and safety of voters, candidates and election officials are paramount. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - If the general election were to be held during the Covid-19 outbreak, voters subject to restrictions like stay-home orders will be allowed to vote outside their electoral divisions, under a proposed law.

Aspiring candidates who are ill would also be allowed to register on Nomination Day without being there in person.

These are among the measures in the Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill introduced by Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing in Parliament on Tuesday (April 7).

The Bill, which is meant to facilitate the temporary arrangements necessary for holding a safe general election while Covid-19 measures are in effect, will also allow special steps to be taken in the interest of public health during polls and vote counting.

Responding on behalf of Mr Chan to queries, the Elections Department (ELD) said: "This Bill forms part of ELD's contingency planning for the next General Election. It is not related to the timing of the GE.

"The Prime Minister will decide when to call the election, taking into account the challenges confronting our country, including the evolving Covid-19 situation.

"The Government is fully focused on tackling Covid-19. Our immediate priorities include helping affected Singaporeans and companies, and implementing the 'circuit breaker' measures to slow down the outbreak."

The ELD also said in a statement that the provisions in the Bill are temporary arrangements that will apply only to the next General Election, and not to any election held after the stipulated date.

It added that the Bill forms part of its contingency planning for the next election, which has to be held by April 14, 2021, and will allow it to make arrangements to ensure the safety of voters, candidates and election officials amid the pandemic.

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Elaborating on the measures, the ELD said voters who are subject to stay orders, such as stay-home notices, may vote at the designated facilities where they are serving out the orders, for instance.

Meanwhile, aspiring candidates can nominate a representative to help them file their nomination papers if they are unable or unfit to do so because of a Covid-19 quarantine order or stay order, hospitalisation or ill health.

Under current laws, candidates have to file nomination papers in person.

Said the ELD: "The health and safety of voters, candidates and elections officials is paramount.

"ELD is reviewing our election processes, and putting in place the necessary precautionary measures, in compliance with prevailing advisories from the Ministry of Health."

The Bill will be debated at the next available Parliament sitting, which is expected to take place next month.

If approved by Parliament, it will take effect before the next general election, which has to be held by April 14 next year.

This means that Parliament is not likely to be dissolved during the circuit breaker measures. These curbs - the strictest to date - are in effect from Tuesday until May 4.

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