From the formation of new parties or new additions to our Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs), there has been speculation of an election being held this year. During an election, both parties and voters need to be careful of what they say and do. In this article, we answer your questions about voting, and give you some insight into what you should and should not do during an election.
Do I have to vote?
Section 43(1) of the Parliamentary Elections Act provides that “every elector shall record his vote at each election in the division for which he is registered”. So the short answer is yes. However, it then becomes important to know if you are already registered as a voter.
As of publishing, the register of electors was last updated on 1 Feb. This means that Singaporean citizens aged 21 or above from 1 Feb 2019, who have their residential address on their NRIC have been registered as an elector. There are, however, exceptions to this:
- Foreign NationalityIf you have acquired, or have applied for citizenship in a foreign country, you will be disqualified from voting. Furthermore, the claiming and exercising of any rights afforded to citizens in a foreign country will disqualify you from voting. Oaths of allegiance to foreign powers will also disqualify you as such.
- Serving in Foreign MilitaryEmployment under land, air, or navy forces not funded by the Singapore government will disqualify you from voting.
- Imprisoned or ChargedThose imprisoned for more than 12 months– including life and death sentences– will be disqualified from voting. Those charged with an offence that renders them liable to imprisonment exceeding 12 months are also disqualified.
- Unsound MindIf you are declared to have an unsound mind under any written law, you will also be disqualified from voting.
It should be noted that overseas voters must also register here to vote before they can do so in their relevant embassies.
If you do not vote, your name will be removed from the register of electors. If your failure to vote was for “good reason” you may submit a written application to have your name restored to the register here. If you did not have a sufficiently good reason for failing to vote previously, but would like your name restored, you must pay $50 to do so.
Section 11 of the Act also provides for a mechanism through which one may object to the inclusion of one’s own name, or any other person’s name, on the register. Such an objection must be made within 2 weeks from the date of publication in the Gazette’s notice of the completion of the register. There have been no reported cases of such objections.
However, if it is later found that the objection was made without reasonable cause, the Registration Officer may order the objector to pay to the person in regard to whom the objection was made a sum of up to $50 as reasonable compensation for any loss in time incurred by the person in consequence of the objection.
Can I Donate to Parties?
Regulations to block foreign interference from electoral processes are common in democratic countries, to ensure that elected governments work in the interest of the people rather than of other countries. Singapore is no exception, and the Political Donations Act, “[guards Singapore] against foreign influences” such as fake news or propaganda.
As an eligible voter, you are also an eligible political donor. Before donating, be aware of the restrictions and regulations in place for donating:
Under the Act, political parties and candidates are to report their donations to the Registrar of Political Donations. Donors who have donated $10,000 or more must also do so.
Permissible donors are restricted to Singaporeans, Singapore-controlled companies, and political parties themselves. In terms of donation restrictions, anonymous donors are not allowed to donate more than $5,000 a year to parties and candidates. Services such as printing can be donated, and their value will be taken at the price paid, or the difference between the price paid and market value when the price paid is lower.
“Don’t”s During The Election
You should also take note of the following once the writ of election has been issued:
- Persons Prohibited From Conducting Election ActivityAs stated in Section 83 of the Parliamentary Elections Act, primary and secondary school students, undischarged bankrupts, non-Singaporeans, and those with an Order of Supervision under the Criminal Law Act are prohibited from conducting election activities. This refers to any activity (other than clerical work wholly performed within enclosed premises) which is done for the purpose of —
|(a)||promoting or procuring the electoral success at any election for one or more identifiable political parties, candidates or groups of candidates; or|
|(b)||prejudicing the electoral prospects of other political parties, candidates or groups of candidates at the election.|
- Publishing of Election Survey ResultsNo person is allowed to publish election survey results– whether conducted officially or in a personal capacity. Section 78C of the Act holds offenders liable to a maximum fine of $1,500 and/or a jail term not exceeding 12 months.
- Unlawful AssemblyUnder Section 84 of the Act, a group of 5 or more individuals with the objective of disrupting election meetings– such as rallies– or to intimidate voters or candidates, will be considered an illegal assembly. The penalties for such an illegal assembly are provided for under the Penal Code.
- Operation of LoudspeakerThe operation of a loudspeaker to “interfere with any election meeting or [to] cause annoyance to persons conducting or attending the meeting” is made illegal under Section 85 of the Act. Offenders will be liable to a fine of up to $1,500 and/or a jail term not exceeding 12 months.
Cooling Off and Polling Day
Cooling Off Day refers to the day before Polling Day, where all campaigning by candidates and individuals must cease. This is to “give voters some time to reflect rationally on issues before voting”.
All advertising on Cooling Off and Polling Days is made illegal under Section 78B of the Act– with the exception of pre-election planned advertising for goods/services, and posters and banners already displayed before Cooling Off Day. Those who breach this rule are liable to a fine of up to $1,000 and/or a jail term not exceeding 12 months.
Under Section 81 of the Act, the dissuasion of voters from voting– through both word and writing– is illegal. Similarly, under Section 82 of the Act, loitering or trying to retrieve personal information from other voters at a polling station is illegal. Both offences warrant a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail term of up to 12 months.
Additionally, the use of a vehicle to ferry people– excluding friends and family– to and from polling stations is illegal under Section 71 of the Parliamentary Elections Act. Furthermore, no motor vehicles are to be parked within a 100m radius of polling stations from 8AM-8PM. Both actions are arrestable offences.
Elections are certainly not something you should take lightly. Many of the regulations in the Parliamentary Elections Act have been put in place to ensure elections maintain fair and accessible. Even with a better idea of what you can and cannot do during an election, you should still be careful not to publish or do anything that may undermine the election process.
Have a question about the law?
If you have any questions about elections, you can request a quote with with Chooi Jing Yen or have a quick consult with other lawyers. With Quick Consult, from a transparent, flat fee of $49, a lawyer will call you on the phone within 1-2 days to give you legal advice.
This article does not constitute legal advice or a legal opinion on any matter discussed and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and practice in this area. If you require any advice or information, please speak to practicing lawyer in your jurisdiction. No individual who is a member, partner, shareholder or consultant of, in or to any constituent part of Interstellar Group Pte. Ltd. accepts or assumes responsibility, or has any liability, to any person in respect of this article.