Police probe empty ballot boxes from past election

Dr Tan Cheng Bock (left) runs into Dr Tony Tan (right) at Admiralty Secondary School on August 27 2011.

SINGAPORE - The police are investigating the discovery of empty ballot boxes from a past election, after the Elections Department made a report.

The Sunday Times understands that five boxes used for the 2011 Presidential Election were found by students at a school in the Bishan-Toa Payoh electoral division.

The case is rare because these boxes - into which voters cast their ballots - should have been collected and disposed of after the ballot papers are emptied out for counting.

All counted ballot papers are put into different boxes which are taken under escort and stored at the Supreme Court for six months before being destroyed.

The 2011 presidential poll saw a four-cornered race, which was eventually won by President Tony Tan Keng Yam. He beat his nearest rival, former Member of Parliament Tan Cheng Bock, by a razor- thin margin of 7,382 out of 2.16 million votes cast - just 0.35 percentage point.

In a statement on Saturday, the Elections Department did not give details about the boxes that were found, but said the incident had no implications on the secrecy of the vote and electoral process. It lodged a police report after receiving an e-mail from a member of the public about the matter last Tuesday, and investigations are ongoing.

Its statement followed a report on socio-political site TR Emeritus last Friday, that showed photos of five empty boxes. From labels on the boxes, they appear to be from the last Presidential Election.

The police did not confirm details, citing ongoing investigations, but a spokesman said those interviewed said the boxes had no ballot papers when they were found. "Preliminary investigations indicate that these were empty boxes left behind in the counting centre (which were) intended to be disposed of."

The Elections Department said the boxes might have been missed by contractors who were supposed to collect them for disposal. In giving details of the ballot process, it said ballot boxes are inspected by election officials before voting begins and, once polls close, they are sealed and transported under police escort to the counting centres.

After counting is over and the result is announced, the ballot papers and other documents used in the election are put into different boxes and sealed. The ballot papers are then taken under police escort to the Supreme Court and kept for six months before being destroyed.

"This rigorous process ensures secrecy of the vote," the department said.

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