GE explainer: What are polling agents? Can you become one?

Voters at the polling station in Cantonment Primary School on Sept 11, 2015.
PHOTO: The Straits Times file

Most Singaporeans are aware of their civic duty to vote, but did you know that there's more you can do as a member of the public?

Come election time, each political party will be calling for volunteers to act as polling agents.

What exactly does that entail? Let's break it down.

What do they do?

Polling agents are appointed by candidates or their election agents in order to ensure a fair election.

In a nutshell, they make sure that the poll is carried out in accordance with the law.

On Polling Day, polling agents will be allowed to monitor the proceedings from a position that will not compromise the secrecy of voters' ballots.

Things they will have to look out for include: attempts to intimidate voters, campaigning on the day, or bias on the part of the presiding officers.

This means that polling agents will have to go through training before Polling Day to familiarise themselves with proper polling procedure, as well as the legal powers and duties of the presiding officers.

Who can become a polling agent?

Volunteers have to be Singapore citizens and do not have to be a member of any political party.

Parties that face a shortage of volunteers can end up without polling agents at some of their polling stations.

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For polling stations in Singapore, each candidate or group of candidates is permitted to appoint one polling agent for every 1,000 voters allotted to vote there.

For polls overseas, each political party and independent candidate may appoint one polling agent at each polling station.

As part of measures to reduce crowding in light of the Covid-19 situation, there will be 1,100 polling stations in the upcoming general election, up from over 800 stations in 2015.

With more polling stations, the average number of voters per station will decrease from 3,000 to 2,400.

If two polling agents take turns to cover the 12-hour polling period, an estimated number of 10,560 polling agents will be needed, assuming each constituency is contested by two candidates.

How to sign up

Each party is responsible for recruiting and training their own polling agents.

They can only appoint their polling agents after an election is called, but those who wish to volunteer can indicate their interest with the party in advance.

Both the Worker's Party and Progress Singapore Party have called for volunteers in the past two weeks.

As Singapore's 14th General Election is around the corner (with speculation that it may be as early as next month), The...

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