The Elections Department (ELD) and the police issued a joint statement yesterday in response to presidential candidate Tan Cheng Bock's Facebook post on protecting the integrity of the voting system.
Dr Tan had on Wednesday said in a post that he was puzzled that two 17-year-old students who removed empty ballot boxes used in the 2011 Presidential Election from a school storeroom last August were issued advisories by the police.
He said the discovery of the ballot boxes highlighted a possible flaw in the process and procedures of the electoral voting system.
In their statement, the ELD and the police clarified that the two ballot boxes found by the students were used boxes discarded after the ballots they contained had been emptied out for counting.
They were to have been collected by the ELD's contractor from the counting centres but were missed by the contractor.
"There are no implications on the secrecy of the vote or the integrity of the electoral process itself," the ELD and the police said. They also explained that after all the ballot slips have been counted, they are placed in new boxes. Dr Tan had said that he was not aware that new boxes were introduced at the counting centre.
He said that as a result, he and his counting agents had not inspected these boxes.
"Introduction of these new boxes without the candidate and counting agent's knowledge creates doubts that these boxes may not be empty in the first place," Dr Tan wrote.
Dr Tan lost to President Tony Tan Keng Yam in the 2011 presidential poll by a very thin margin of just 7,382 votes, out of 2.16 million votes cast.
In yesterday's statement, the ELD and the police said the use of these distinct, new ballot boxes for counted ballots is "precisely to avoid confusion" between them and the boxes containing uncounted slips.
For transparency, all these processes - including the checking of ballot boxes and ballot papers, and the placing of counted slips into separate boxes - are observed by candidates and counting agents. They are also allowed to place their own seals on these boxes.
This procedure, said the ELD and the police, has been in place since the 1997 General Election, when carton ballot boxes were first used for polling.
They added that "if Dr Tan has any evidence that there has been a breach of these processes, he is invited to submit the evidence to the Elections Department who will look into it".
This article was first published on June 21, 2014.
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