If it’s your first time voting this year, I can understand how the upcoming elections can be daunting. There are suddenly so many acronyms to know — GE, PAP, WP, PSP — and in order to vote wisely, as kindly advised by our elders, it may feel like there’s suddenly a lot to learn, whether on the election process itself, practical things like where my GRC is and how to vote, or deciding how you feel about issues.
Thing is, you’re not alone. Many second-time voters (like me), or older citizens, feel the same way too — though I have to say, things get a little more exciting when you’re familiar with seasoned names and faces. With mainly social media as a source of information, I’d call it a double-edged sword; sure, we are now privy to alternative information and ground-up voices, but it takes intentional effort to cut through the clutter.
Just know this: voting is your right, especially in a democracy, and is a fair way to make your voice count, by giving the elected government a legitimate mandate to govern. Get yourself acquainted with facts, and start with issues you care about, in order to inform your decision and where you stand. And instead of vote wisely, we’ll say this: vote responsibly.
Here’s a list of frequently asked questions answered, as well as a list of resources to help you stay informed.
THE GENERAL ELECTION (GE) PROCESS
What are the important dates to take note of?
- 30 June: Nomination Day — this is when the candidates who are interested in contesting for election are to submit their nomination papers to the Returning Officer.
- 30 June – 8 July: Campaigning Days — during the campaign period, you’ll see posters around your neighbourhood, and might meet the candidates during their walkabouts. Rallies will also be held so political parties can communicate their ideologies and proposals.
- 9 July: Cooling-off Day — during the eve of Polling Day, election campaigning is prohibited; it’s meant to give voters some time to reflect on issues raised during the election before going to the polls.
- 10 July: Polling Day — when you go to their assigned polling stations to cast your votes!
How do I know if I’m eligible to vote in the upcoming elections?
You must be a Singapore citizen, aged 21 years old or older on the date the Register of Electors are based on, which is 1 March 2020. If you still aren’t sure if you’re eligible to vote, you can check your name in the Register of Electors by using your Singpass login here.
How do I know which constituency I’m in?
You may check your electoral division online here, by keying in your Postal Code. This year, there will are 17 group representation constituencies (GRCs) and 14 single-member constituencies (SMCs), with a total of 93 MPs.
Who is contesting in my area?
It’s important to know the candidates and political parties who are contesting your constituency as you are choosing a person / group who will represent you and your constituency in parliament.
For a collection of our resources to stay informed, click here to go to that section in our article.
What’s different about the election process this year?
Other than changes to the electoral boundaries, a major point to note this year is that the election is held while we’re still actively guarding against the spread of the COVID-19. Safe measures will be therefore be put in place by the Elections Department to protect public health.
Practical measures for voters include “time bands” for voters and priority for elderly citizens to vote on Polling Day, as well as a 25 per cent increase in the number of polling stations to 1,100 to reduce crowding.
As for campaigning, there will be no physical rallies or other large gatherings during this election. Walkabouts and door-to-door campaigning are allowed, but must follow safe distancing guidelines.
In place of large gatherings, campaign rallies will either be livestreamed on the Internet, or broadcast on national TV. For e-rallies, up to 10 venues will be provided each day by the Government for online rallies, between 1 – 8 July; these will likely be streamed on the respective parties’ Facebook pages.
New Constituency Political Broadcasts are also introduced on free-to-air radio and television — each election candidate will be given three minutes of airtime, to be shown on Mediacorp’s Channel 5 from 3 Jul to 7 Jul, from 7pm each day. The broadcast line-ups will be published on Mediacorp’s website on each day of broadcast.
When and where do I vote?
You may check your designated polling station online here. Key in your NRIC number and the results will show you your Electoral Division, Polling Station and recommended 2-hour time slot.
Polling stations will be open from 8am to 8pm on Polling Day on 10 July, which will be a public holiday for all. Voting this year is limited to two-hour windows in order to avoid crowding, due to safe distancing measures. You may also check the queue at your polling station here.
How do I vote?
On Polling Day, head to your designated polling station and bring along your NRIC and poll card, which you will receive in your mailbox prior to the day. At the booths, you will have to collect a ballot paper — this is where you write your vote. Mark an “X” in the box next to your chosen candidate(s)’ name and party.
By the way, you can bring your mobile phone out with you, but do keep it away when you’re in the polling station as cameras are not allowed. For a quick summary of Do’s and Don’ts, visit the official website.
“Your vote is secret.” — what does that mean and why does that matter?
It means that your individual vote cannot be traced, thanks to a rigorous process that ensures the security and secrecy of each vote. This is done to uphold the democratic process, so you can vote freely and from your conscience, not out of fear.
On Polling Day, you’ll be issued a ballot paper without your name on it, to be filled in a solo booth out of sight of others. No cameras are allowed in the premises too. Counting agents from each party are at the polling station to ensure the ballot boxes are not opened. After the polls have closed, the ballot boxes are sealed with tamper-proof seals signed over by the candidates, then transported under police escort to the Counting Centre — this is where the ballot boxed will be opened, ballot papers poured out, and election officials count the votes in full view of the candidates from all contesting parties. At no point are the boxes opened without the contesting parties present. You may read about the full process here.
As for the serial numbers on your ballot paper, this guards against election fraud such as counterfeit ballot papers, vote impersonation or casting ballot papers marked by others. Many other countries, including the UK, have numbered ballot papers.
What happens if I don’t vote?
Voting is compulsory for all Singaporean citizens aged 21 and above. All Singapore citizens whose names are in the Registers of Electors have to cast their votes on Polling Day.
If you don’t vote, you also forfeit your right to vote for all future elections. A list of non-voters will be compiled, and their names then removed from the Register of Electors. Non-voters cannot vote at any subsequent Presidential or Parliamentary election, and they are disqualified from being a candidate at any subsequent Presidential or Parliamentary election.
Still, non-voters can restore their names to the register by submitting an application at the Election Department’s website, with an explanation on why they did not vote in the election. There will be a fee of $50 if one does not have a valid reason for not voting.
TO STAY INFORMED
What are some good resources I can read to stay informed?
We’ll classify this according to: basic information, a foundation on the elections and its processes, more in-depth analysis, daily updates for this year’s GE 2020, and where you can find each political parties’ stance on specific issues, including climate change and LGBTQ+ rights.
A good source of information if you’re looking for straightforward, non-partisan facts and the latest elections-related guidelines.
For a crash course on what the elections are about:
The independent and non-partisan community, led by Yale-NUS College students, now has a GE-dedicated site that provides quick explainers and links to the information you might want to know. Check out their Instagram page too for bite-sized content.
Started by two 21-year-olds as a resource with basic information about the elections and the political system in Singapore.
- Illustration by @illobyanngee
I also found this summary by illustrator Anngee, on Members of Parliament (MP) — who they are, what they do, and why they’re important — very helpful as a starting point on why casting our vote is important.
This is a useful one-stop portal by @theweirdandwild that compiles a lot of the ground-up knowledge and analysis shared online, so that voters can stay informed. Graphics are clear, while all the links and information can be easily accessed; the page will also be regularly updated.
If you’d like more in-depth analysis:
In “NN Explains: The Singapore General Elections”, Singaporean journalist Kirsten Han and illustrator Shirin Rafie, have presented an explainer comic on the GE 2020 elections, where it gives more in-depth and contextualised information on the process, the main political parties, and issues that will be covered. The organisation’s website and elections-based portal also contains articles that discuss democracy, civil society, and other important issues.
A website run by Singaporean students as a resource for accessible information on candidate releases, party histories, and GE news updates. They also do their own analysis pieces on the election, while I find their timeline of ‘Today on the Campaign Trail’ quite useful to keep up to date on party events and broadcasts.
Organised and written by ex-journalist and current faculty member Bertha Henson faculty, along with NUS students mainly from the Communications and New Media department. The website covers features on the electoral system, makes sense of important data, and occasionally, sees opinion pieces from young people too.
To keep up to date on GE 2020 content:
- Mainstream media would be a good place to start, as they have access to live happenings, press conferences, and doorstop interviews of the contesting candidates. They often have good infographics as well. The Straits Times has a Singapore General Elections tag, as does Channel News Asia and TODAY.
For specific issues:
Both these resources have done the research to summarise where each party or politicians stand on LGBTQ+ issues.
- Greenwatch Climate Scorecard, by SG Climate Rally
If you’re interested on how the political parties fare based on environmental issues and concerns raised, this is a good place to start. The website scores them based on key criteria and how they’ve responded to the climate crisis.
What about the party manifestos?
- GE2020 Manifestos, by We, The Citizens
A useful spreadsheet where you can view all the proposals by the various parties at a glance, sorted either by party or by issue. Very useful for comparison purposes!
You can, of course, read the official party manifestos from each political party here:
- People’s Action Party (PAP)
- Progress Singapore Party (PSP)
- Workers’ Party (WP)
- Singapore Democratic Party (SDP)
- Peoples Voice (PV)
- National Solidarity Party (NSP)
- Reform Party (RP)
- Singapore People’s Party (SPP)
- Red Dot United (RDU)
- People’s Power Party (PPP)
- Singapore Democratic Alliance (SDA)
Are there live broadcasts to watch online?
Yes. These are especially important during the campaign period this year as physical rallies cannot be held.
Online rallies by each political party will likely be streamed on their respective social media pages, though so far, there’s no fixed schedule. I would refer to Singapore Votes’ daily update to know when and where to tune into.
Additionally, there are Constituency Political Broadcasts on national television — each election candidate will be given three minutes of airtime. There are also Party Political Broadcasts, on 2 July and 9 July from 8pm each day. More information here. We will update this page with key events.
- “Singapore Votes 2020 – The Political Debate”
Mediacorp will broadcast two “live” General Election debates in English and Mandarin on 1 July evening. Four political parties who fielded the most candidates at the General Election — namely, PAP, PSP, WP and SDP — have sent a candidate to each of the debates. The English debate will be aired on Channel 5 at 8pm, with a simulcast on CNA938 radio and livestreams on meWatch, CNA’s website, YouTube and Facebook pages as well as a delayed telecast on CNA at 9pm.
Banner Credit: New Naratif, Singapore Votes, Heckin’ Unicorn, CAPE.