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Asia Minute: Singapore’s Plan for Voting During a Pandemic

AP Photo/YK Chan
A man wearing a face mask uses a thermal scanner to check on the temperature of an individual before he can enter a building in Singapore Tuesday, June 2, 2020.

While many businesses are slowly re-opening, questions linger about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on other activities. That includes voting. And in one democracy in Asia, despite uncertainty, planning is underway.

The timing of Singapore’s next election is uncertain. The prime minister may know when he plans to call one, but so far he’s not sharing that information.

Singapore’s parliamentary democracy is due for a general election. According to the constitution, it needs to be held by next April, but speculation in the local political press is that it’s likely to come much sooner — perhaps July. That would coincide with another stage of loosening of restrictions to control the coronavirus.

Whenever the elections do come, there’s already a plan.

This week, Singapore’s Election Department announced a series of changes at polling places. Early hours will be reserved for older voters — masks will be required for everyone, of course, along with temperature checks at the door.

There will be about 25% more voting stations than usual – roughly 1,100 – so people can spread out to exercise their democratic rights. Everyone will get hand sanitizer and disposable gloves to make sure the paper ballots won’t be contaminated.

Voters can also bring their own pens.

This won’t be the first national election during the pandemic.

In Mid-April, South Korea had its highest voter turnout in 30 years when the ruling party won by a landslide.

South Korea also allowed mail-in ballots — a step that Singapore is not willing to take.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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