Residents try out new e-registration system ahead of next month's presidential election

SINGAPORE - A line of people moved briskly as an "election official" scanned the barcode on their mock identity cards to register their attendance on a laptop, then directed them to pick up their ballot slip at a "polling station" in Tiong Bahru Community Centre.

They were trying out the new electronic registration system which some voters will use in the event that they go to the polls for next month's presidential election, at one of five roadshows organised by the Elections Department (ELD) on Saturday (Aug 26) for people to familiarise themselves with the process.

The new system will be piloted at Chua Chu Kang GRC, Tanjong Pagar GRC and Yuhua SMC in the upcoming election, the ELD announced on Friday (Aug 28).

It will mean shorter waiting times for voters in those areas at polling stations, it said. Voting, however, will still be done by marking paper ballots with a pen.

People can try out the new system and provide feedback at the ELD's roadshows this weekend and on Sept 9 and 10, to be held at 11 community centres in total. ELD will also gather feedback from voters and election officials during the election.

The majority of the feedback left by visitors at the Tiong Bahru roadshow on Saturday was that e-registration was fast and convenient.

Tiong Bahru resident Lucy Lye, 62, said it was easy to use and seemed faster than the manual method of registration.

"Last time I had to wait about half an hour to vote. I tried to go early to beat the queue but many people were there too," said the retiree.

Freelance events coordinator Alvin Phay, 30, said his previous voting experience was quite quick, but added that e-registration was a timely move as "things are going digital now".

With the electronic system, election officials will no longer have to manually search for and strike off names of voters on printed copies of the polling station register. But they must still check the voter's identity against his or her identity card.

The rest of the process, such as verbal verification with the polling agents representing candidates, remains the same.

If a voter who has been registered before tries to register again, the system will raise an alert.

The ELD said the new system will halve the number of election officials needed to record attendance, compared to the pen-and-paper system.

Three people have said they intend to contest the presidency next month, in the election reserved for Malay candidates - former Speaker of Parliament Halimah Yacob, and businessmen Farid Khan and Salleh Marican. Voters will go to the polls if more than one of them qualifies to run.