Singaporeans living in the United Kingdom were among the first to cast their votes in this year's general election.
The Singapore High Commission in London opened its doors at 8am (3pm Singapore time) yesterday, but a queue of about 15 people had already formed 10 minutes earlier outside the building in the Belgravia area of the city.
Voters were standing at least 2m apart from one another, in the light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Poll letters issued to registered overseas voters listed instructions to wear a face covering and to keep a safe distance from others.
One of the first few in line at 7.45am was Mr Zack Ho, 28, who moved to London for work last year. The auditor from Aljunied GRC, who was voting overseas for the first time, said it is good that the GRC is keenly contested.
"It keeps (politicians) on their toes, with residents watching whether they deliver their promises after each election."
Singapore Management University exchange student Darren Choy, 24, who is from Hougang SMC, flew to London from Moscow to cast his ballot.
"I have been quite interested in politics since I was young, and this is the first time I get to vote, so I feel that it is important to be a part of this process," he said.
According to the Elections Department, there are 6,570 registered overseas voters in this election, up from 4,868 in 2015.
But a glitch in the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority's system, for which the authority apologised last Saturday, means that another 101 overseas Singaporeans will not get to vote this time though they had applied to do so.
London is one of 10 overseas polling stations, which are in places with a significant number of Singaporeans. The rest are in Beijing, Canberra, Dubai, Hong Kong, New York, San Francisco, Shanghai, Tokyo and Washington.
Voting in Dubai, London and the United States took place yesterday as overseas polls must not close later than the close of polls in Singapore.
It’s #coolingoffday in Singapore but voting is a day ahead in London. I might be wrong, but we might just be the first...
Polls likewise opened at 8am (8pm Singapore time) in Washington, and voters showed up with masks firmly on their faces and red passports in hand.
All overseas polling stations have put in place measures to ensure the health and safety of voters and election officials amid the pandemic.
All voters were required to wear masks, sanitise their hands and don plastic gloves when collecting a ballot paper. Election workers also donned face shields and gloves.
First in line were Jurong GRC voters Peter Chou, 47, his wife Sharon and their 12-year-old son Sebastian, who set out from their Virginia home at 3am to beat the traffic into the nation's capital.
"It's a very important responsibility for citizens to cast a vote. We're casting a vote for the next generation, for my son's generation. It's not just casting votes but setting the correct foundation for the next generation," said Mr Chou, a postgraduate student in healthcare.
His impression of the election was that it was "more emotionally charged, because of the pandemic and also the economic situation in Singapore is a little on the rough side".
Scientist Faezzah Baharom, 31, said that what grabbed her attention about this election was the energy of the youth, which she said was different from when she was in Singapore 10 years ago.
"It's good to know that young people care about Singapore," said the Tampines GRC voter.
"I don't know if it's partly due to the influence of social media and people are aware of what's happening in the US for example, but it's good to know that people are discussing racial equality and things like that in Singapore too."
First-time voter Luk Yean, a data analyst at a healthcare policy company, said it was his democratic right and responsibility to vote.
The 25-year-old added: "The pandemic was one of the main concerns I have, but the future leadership of the country is very important, and this election is going to go a long way in deciding that."