US citizens in Singapore gear up to vote for their president

Voter Suzanne Murphy, 38, at the US Embassy in Singapore. PHOTO: UNITED STATES EMBASSY SINGAPORE

SINGAPORE - United States citizens based in Singapore are gearing up to cast their votes by mail for the upcoming US presidential election.

A spokesman for the US Embassy in Singapore said that American citizens would be able to drop off their completed ballots at the embassy to be mailed.

US citizens in Singapore will also be allowed to post their ballots themselves - by mail or courier - to their local election officials if they are willing to pay international postage.

The embassy said it abides by the Singapore Government's safe distancing rules.

"If American citizens are dropping off their ballots at the embassy, they must adhere to safe distancing guidelines - temperatures will be checked before entry, masks must be worn at all times, and safe distancing must occur. We have signs and tape on the ground and staff is deployed to ensure safety and compliance," the spokesman added.

Voting in the US is managed by each state. Each locality in the US is responsible for sending out absentee ballots to voters who have requested a ballot. Voters must then return the ballots to their election officials.

Some states allow voting by e-mail or fax. Other states only allow paper ballot by mail.

Over the last few months, voters here have closely monitored both candidates, incumbent Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic candidate and former vice-president Joe Biden, on the campaign trail.

Mr Trump and Mr Biden locked horns in the first of three planned presidential debates in Cleveland, Ohio, on Tuesday night (Sept 29).

The 90-minute debate at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic was moderated by Fox News host Chris Wallace and aired at 9am Singapore time on Wednesday (Sept 30).

For Mr Steven Okun, 54, this will be the fifth time he will be casting his vote from here. He has been a resident of Singapore since 2003.

A senior advisor at McLarty Associates, Mr Okun said the recent presidential debate cast current American politics in a negative light.

He said that Mr Trump used the debate to undermine the integrity of the electoral process by claiming mail-in voting is fraudulent.

Mr Okun added that the way the Covid-19 outbreak was handled in the US was a pertinent issue to be addressed.

"Until the US has a national plan to control Covid-19, nothing else will be resolved," he said.

President Trump has repeatedly and explicitly questioned the integrity of mail-in ballots, which have always been a feature of American elections - in some states more than others - and have assumed even greater importance in this year's election given the risk posed by queuing up and mingling in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Another voter based in Singapore, Ms Tina Datta, described the Cleveland debate as an example of robust democracy in action.

Ms Datta, 52, is chairman of Republicans Overseas Singapore and has resided here for a decade.

Noting the shortcomings of the debate format, Ms Datta said: "I think the debate for most of the American people was unfortunate from the standpoint that neither candidate was able to answer in complete sentences."

Ms Datta said that Mr Biden did not directly address the questions raised during the debate. One of the significant issues raised was the rule of law, she added.

The US presidential contest was thrown into disarray when Mr Trump announced on Friday (Oct 2) that both he and his wife, Melania, had tested positive for Covid-19.

Mr Trump was due to meet Mr Biden on Oct 15 in Miami, Florida, and on Oct 22 in Nashville, Tennessee, for the second and third presidential debates before the Nov 3 election.

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