Don’ts and Dos of Marking Ballots, Don’t Waste Your Vote!

Did you know that you could end up giving your precious vote to the party you dislike or end up spoiling your vote if you drew or wrote something rude in the box next to their logo on your ballot paper? You may think you are being funny but such actions could make the difference between a Win and a Loss in closely contested constituencies such as in East Coast, Marine Parade and Holland-Bukit Timah GRCs.

Every vote counts so take care not to end up spoiling your vote or giving your vote to the wrong party by mistake. Resist the temptation to draw or write something rude.The temptation will be MAGNIFIED this year as the Government will be printing the photos of all candidates on all ballot papers.sample

An example of the new look ballot paper with candidates photos

Examples of the new look ballot paper with candidates photos

Yes, horns will look lovely on your “favourite” target but please exercise restraint and DO NOT draw or write on the photos of the candidates nor on the party logo! No horns, no moustaches, no “FU”. Period.

Many of us know that we should mark a cross X next to the party that we want to vote for. Sounds simple enough? But few know that there are many ways to unwittingly end up spoiling your vote or, worse, giving the wrong party your vote. Take a look at this.

Image from Nicole L's FB page

Image from Nicole L’s FB page

The image on the right was taken off a Facebook post. The negative messages are clear but that does not matter as there are rules to be followed and PAP may get the vote if their appointed counting agents are able to argue a case for the vote.  And believe me, they WILL. And so they should, just as all counting agents for the opposition parties should fight for every ambiguous vote that is up for adjudication.

As a backgrounder, each counting place that counts the ballots will have counting agents  representing each political party and government officers to do the counting. There are Assistant Returning Officers at each counting place and they will adjudicate unclear votes and their decision is final.

Read these two blog posts by blogger Yawningbread to know more about the process and to see more images showing examples of valid votes and spoilt votes. One of the images below shows votes that were apparently considered acceptable at a counting centre during GE 2011.

Images extracted from Yawningbread bloggers post

Images extracted from Yawningbread bloggers post

These 2 oddly marked ballots were accepted as valid at one counting place in GE2011 (Image from Yawingbread blog)

These 2 oddly marked ballots were accepted as valid at one counting place in GE2011 (Image from Yawingbread blog)

Surprised by how ambiguous or questionable markings can count as a valid vote? Me too.  Blame it on a badly drafted rule issued by the Singapore Elections Department (ELD) that gives rise to many grey areas as to when a marked ballot can be rejected or accepted.

In the ELD 2015 guide for Counting Agents, there is this grey clause 5.12 under “Counting Process” that states:

“But a ballot paper on which the vote is marked elsewhere than in the proper place, otherwise than by means of a cross or by more than one marking will not be treated as void if the intention of the voter as to which candidate he/she wishes to give the vote to is clear, and the way the paper is marked does not in itself identify the voter.”

Basically, this says the vote can count so long as it can be argued that the voter’s intention was to vote for the party which contains a marking in the box next to (or on) the party on the ballot paper.

This vague rule gives too much room for what is considered an acceptable marking which could trigger adjudication. As there is no clear guidance on how to adjudicate some of the ballots that are marked in odd ways,  except that of determining voter intention (which is like trying to read a crystal ball in some cases), there will be inconsistency in interpretation across the counting centres.

According to counting agents who have witnessed the counting of votes in the past, even drawings of a turtle, a squiggle or an “FU” can count as a spoilt vote or a valid vote depending how hard a party counting agent argued and the decisions of the AROs at the counting centres. And at the same time, there are eyewitness accounts of votes where the X was marked faintly for the opposition party and yet were rejected by the RO at the counting centre despite protests by that party’s counting agents.  Obviously, the ELD needs to redraft the law to make it fairer and clearer for the counting officers and voters.

But until then what is ELD’s guideline on what counts as a spoilt or rejected vote?  Ballot papers that are rejected:

(a) a ballot paper which does not bear the complete official mark for the authentication of ballot papers;
(b) a ballot paper on which votes are given for more than one candidate;
(c) a ballot paper on which anything is written or marked by which the voter can be identified (e.g. a voter signs or writes his name or NRIC number);
(d) a ballot paper which is unmarked; and
(e) a ballot paper which is void for uncertainty.

A vote is supposed to be considered spoilt and thus not counted if both boxes (or more if there are more than two parties contesting in that constituency) are clearly marked. One box may contain the legit X for the voter’s chosen party but whether that that vote would be valid or rejected is debatable even if the voter had made other markings in the box next to the party you are not voting for.  All very, very grey no thanks to clause 5.12 as stated above.

By now I hope you understand the perils of trying to be funny or unclear when marking your ballot paper. Play it safe and do nothing more than mark a X next to the party of your choice. Explain and emphasise this to your family and your friends.

When you cast your vote this Friday – please vote with your conscience for a party/candidates with ability and integrity and vote properly with an X.

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3 Responses to Don’ts and Dos of Marking Ballots, Don’t Waste Your Vote!

  1. rodsjournal says:

    Thank you very much for this post! Much appreciated…

  2. Concerned Singaporean says:

    I like the subliminal message in Nicole L’s image 🙂

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