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Bill on safe GE if held during Covid-19 outbreak — don’t forget overseas voters, too

I refer to the report, "Bill to be tabled to allow for ‘safe’ GE if held during Covid-19 outbreak: Elections Dept" (April 3).

Bill on safe GE if held during Covid-19 outbreak — don’t forget overseas voters, too
Jason Kho Yin Long

I refer to the report, "Bill to be tabled to allow for ‘safe’ GE if held during Covid-19 outbreak: Elections Dept" (April 3).

The Parliamentary Elections (Covid-19 Special Arrangements) Bill, which is expected to be introduced on Tuesday (April 7), would allow the Elections Department (ELD) to put in place temporary precautionary measures to ensure the health and safety of voters, candidates and election officials, should a General Election be held during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Apart from health and safety considerations, I wish to highlight that conventional in-person voting may not be possible for some Singaporeans living abroad who have registered as overseas electors, given the lockdown in some countries. 

For example, the Australian government has strongly advised against all non-essential travel within the country, and some states have closed their borders and barred non-essential entries.

Singaporeans like me who live in Australia and are registered as overseas voters should not be made to travel to the Singapore High Commission in Canberra to vote in person. 

I believe Singaporeans in the United Kingdom could face similar difficulties, given the lockdown measures announced by the British government.

With the pandemic showing no signs of abating, further lockdown measures in countries where Singapore allows overseas voting — such as the UK, Australia and the United States — cannot be ruled out in the coming weeks or months. 

If the election is held during the outbreak, perhaps alternative arrangements such as online or mail-in voting could be made.

The ELD states that voting is compulsory in Singapore as a fundamental right of citizenship and a civic responsibility to be exercised by Singaporeans.

In the last election in 2015, more than 3,400 Singaporeans living abroad cast their votes at 10 overseas voting centres. 

I hope the issue of overseas voting during the Covid-19 pandemic will be taken into consideration during the tabling of the Bill this week, so that Singaporeans living abroad can exercise their right to vote.

Have views on this issue or a news topic you care about? Send your letter to voices [at] mediacorp.com.sg with your full name, address and phone number. 

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