Is my vote secret?

Is my vote secret?

Yes, your vote is secret. There is a process to ensure the security of your vote and voting secrecy, and it is rigorous.

06 May 2016


Yes, your vote is secret.

When an election is held in Singapore, the Elections Department follows the procedures laid out by law to ensure the integrity of the election. There is a process to ensure the security of your vote and voting secrecy, and it is rigorous. There is no break in the chain of custody of ballot papers from the polling station to the counting centre, and from the counting centre to the Supreme Court where the ballot papers are retained in safe custody for 6 months and then subsequently destroyed. For transparency, the process is open to observation by candidates and their agents who are present.

What is the vote counting process like?

Before polling commences at 8 am

Ballot boxes are marked and shown to candidates and their polling agents who are present, so they can verify that the boxes are empty. The boxes are then sealed by election officials at the polling station. This is done before the start of the polls on Polling Day.

After polls close at 8 pm

After the polls have closed, election officials at the polling station seal the ballot boxes containing the ballot papers which have been cast. Candidates and their polling agents who are present witness the process and may also place their own seals on the ballot boxes. The sealed ballot boxes are then transported under Police escort to the counting centre.

Counting of votes

At the counting centre, candidates and their counting agents may inspect all the boxes again to ascertain that all the boxes are accounted for, and that no others are present; and to ensure that the seals of all the ballot boxes are intact and have not been tampered with. Once they are satisfied that the boxes have remained secure, the seals are broken and the ballot boxes opened. The ballot papers will be poured out, sorted and counted.

Is it possible to know the vote outcome of a certain part of a constituency? Would this compromise voting secrecy?

Votes cast at each polling station are counted separately. The Assistant Returning Officer is required to announce the counting result for each polling station to candidates and counting agents who are present. The results for all polling stations in a constituency are then tallied to obtain the election result for that constituency.

While it is possible for candidates and counting agents to know how voters have voted for various polling stations in aggregate, it is not possible to know who an individual voter has voted for. Voting secrecy is thus preserved.

What is a sample count?

A sample count is performed at the start of the counting process. It gives an early indication of the possible electoral outcome for an electoral division. This helps prevent speculation and misinformation from unofficial sources while counting is underway, and before official results are announced.

At each polling station, counting assistants pick up a random bundle of 100 ballot papers in front of the candidates and counting agents present. The votes for each candidate are then counted from this random bundle. The votes will be added up, with weightage given to account for the difference in number of votes cast at each polling station. It will then be shown as a percentage of valid votes garnered by each candidate.

Why is there a serial number on my ballot paper?

To counter ballot box stuffing

The serial numbers on ballot papers enable strict accounting of all ballot papers issued and cast. That way, the number of papers found in the ballot box at the end of the election can be tallied with the number issued during the poll and the number of ballot papers stocked before the polls opened.

To prevent impersonation

If a voter casts a vote pretending to be someone else, numbered ballot papers will allow the court to match the suspicious ballot paper with the counterfoil, on which the voter’s registration number is recorded.

What happens to the ballot papers after the votes have been counted?

After the election results have been announced, all ballot papers and their counterfoils are transported from the counting centre to the Supreme Court. They are then sealed in the Supreme Court vault for 6 months, before they are destroyed. The process is open to observation by candidates and their agents who are present.

Theoretically, it is possible for anyone with access to the ballot papers to identify who cast a particular vote.

However, ballot papers can only be retrieved by court order, if the court is satisfied that a vote has been fraudulently cast and the result of the election may be affected as a result.

Sources: ELD – Balloting Secrecy

Useful Links:

How is my vote still secret if the ballot paper has a serial number on it?
How are the votes counted?
What happens to ballot boxes used in elections after polls close?

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