SINGAPORE – While candidates took a breather from campaigning on Cooling-off Day, public servants set up 1,100 polling stations across the country for Singaporeans who will head to the ballot box on July 10.
Polling booths were set up at void decks, precinct pavilions, schools and community clubs on Thursday afternoon (July 9), with tables arranged in neat rows for polling officers, and signs directing voters to the stations.
Unlike in past elections, polling officers, who are public servants, have to implement extra measures to ensure safe distancing and hygiene, as some 2.65 million voters will be casting their votes under the cloud of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Besides temperature-checking points, markers have been placed on floors to ensure voters maintain a 1m distance from one another. Hand sanitisers and disposable gloves will also be made available.
The number of polling stations has been bumped up from 880 to 1,100 to spread out voters across more stations.
This increase means each station will serve an average of 2,400 voters, down from 3,000.
When reporters visited the polling station at Block 535 Bukit Panjang Ring Road, a team of 17 polling officers were seen busy marking out the site with tape and yellow stickers on the ground to ensure safe distancing between voters.
They also put up signs to direct voters where to go – from where voters have their polling and identification cards checked to the booths where they mark their ballot paper in secrecy.
Mr Ramli Abdul Razak, the polling station’s presiding officer, said his team is ready to handle some 1,600 voters who will cast their votes there.
Training sessions to prepare for Polling Day started two years ago, added the 60-year-old, who works as an executive officer at Jurong Town Corporation.
“These (training sessions) were stepped up since the Writ of Election was issued (on June 23).”
At these sessions, public servants go through what to do – from checking polling cards and operating the e-registration system to ushering voters to their polling places.
In recent weeks, they were also briefed on the new measures to help voters feel safe amid the pandemic.
Mr Ramli, who was involved in the 2015 General Election as a counting assistant, said polling officers have to work differently this time round because of the coronavirus situation.
“We have to familiarise ourselves with the new precautionary measures put in place because of Covid-19, like the wearing of gloves and masks,” he added.
“But with the training, I know what to expect and I am confident that we can do our job well.”
Voters can expect a shorter wait at polling stations with an e-registration system, where they just need to scan their identity cards instead of handing them to officials.
But they will need to pull down their masks briefly for election officials – clad in protective gear such as surgical masks and disposable gloves – to verify their identity.
Temperature checks will also be done to sieve out voters who are unwell.
Those found to be running a fever, with a temperature of 37.5 deg C or higher, will be asked to return later during a special voting hour between 7pm and 8pm.
Voters are required to sanitise their hands and put on disposable gloves before receiving their ballot papers.
At the polling booth, they can use their own pen or a new self-inking pen, which allows voters to easily mark an “X” for the party of their choice.
Cleaners will be deployed at all polling stations to clean items and areas described as “common touch points”, such as the self-inking pens and polling booths.