[photo above from https://timesofsandiego.com/politics/2018/04/08/california-counties-testing-voting-centers-to-boost-anemic-turnout/]
With all of the talk and tentative actions by the ruling party in trying to hold the general elections in Singapore, it is now the right time to look at mail-in ballots.
Mail-in balloting is one way to do voting as it has the following inherent advantages:
- No need to go to the polling station, queue up and vote. Given the current COVID-19 situation, this means, we are all practicing both stay at home and social distancing at once.
- There will no longer be a viseral and perhaps subtle coercion of being at the polling station and seeing a person from a party and feeling intimidated and hence voting for that party/candidate. Home voting allows for really freedom from that type of pressure.
- These ballots would be made of non-forgable paper – like the currency notes – so that duplicating and faking them is made very, very unlikely and difficult.
But, there are, obviously, challenges.
The main challenge is that of getting the marked ballots back to the elections department or some location which can do sorting of the envelops and observe the stay at home advise.
Voting will be done at home earlier than the polling day itself, these ballots can then be mailed back, or dropped off at the designated polling stations BEFORE polling day. Both of these actions involve getting out of the house and going to a a designated place or mailbox. These are doable with proper distancing between people coming to drop off the ballot envelops.
Each ballot will be in an envelop that has the polling place details spelled out as well as in QR and barcoded so that, with the help of sorting systems of the Post Office, they can be bagged appropriately.
Once the ballots are received aand on polling day, the elections department can then start the sending out the bagged ballots the respective counting centres for counting to happen. There would need to be an automated, mechanical means to open the ballot envelop safely so that all the counting officials will do is to count. The counting process can proceed as it has for all the elections so far.
We can do this. And Singapore can do this well enough, provided there is a will to do so.
I am sure I am missing some important detail. Please do comment and suggest. PRs welcome, as always.
And, no, Internet voting is still a no go.