US citizens in Singapore closely watching election campaign, gearing up to vote

American citizens based in Singapore are gearing up to cast their votes in the upcoming US presidential election.

A spokesman for the United States Embassy in Singapore said US citizens will be able to drop off their completed ballot at the embassy to be mailed.

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

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

"If American citizens are dropping off their ballot 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 are 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 ballot 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, last Tuesday night.

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

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

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

He said Mr Trump used the debate to underscore the integrity of the electoral process by claiming that 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.

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, she 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 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 presidential contest was thrown into disarray last Friday when Mr Trump announced that he and his wife Melania had tested positive for Covid-19.

He 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 polls.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2020, with the headline 'US citizens in S'pore closely watching election campaign, gearing up to vote'. Print Edition | Subscribe