GE2020 explainer: When will the election results be out and how do I find out who won?

With election 2020 coming up, there may be a lot of questions that you have, especially if you are voting for the first time. 

We understand that there are a lot of terms to learn and things to understand. That’s why we’ve created a list of GE2020 explainers to help you break down election season and everything surrounding it. 

So what’s next after you’ve cast your vote and how can you keep tabs on the results? We answer all these questions and more. 

When does polling close?

On polling day, voters have to cast their votes between 8am and 8pm at their allotted polling stations. After polling closes, ballot boxes containing the votes will be sealed by election officers. 

Candidates and their polling agents will be there to witness the process and may also place their own seals on the boxes. The sealed boxes are then transported to their designated counting centres under police escort where they will be counted.

Polling day for GE2020 is on July 10, 2020.

How are votes counted?

Once the ballot boxes have arrived at the counting centres, candidates and their polling agents can inspect the boxes again to ensure that the seals are intact and have not been tampered with. Counting centres are usually schools or community centres.

The boxes are then opened with the ballot papers poured out, sorted and hand-counted by election officials. The ballot boxes will then be examined to be empty by all who are present.

Candidates can appoint counting agents to observe the counting of votes, and only one counting agent can be present for each party at each counting centre.  

After the count, the Assistant Returning Officer at the counting centre will communicate the results to the Returning Officer at the principal counting area. The Returning Officer, who has been appointed by the Prime Minister to oversee the impartial process of the election, will then compile the results from all counting centres in Singapore.

The Returning Officer for GE2020 is Tan Meng Dui, chief officer of the National Environment Agency. 

What about overseas votes?

Singapore citizens residing overseas and who have registered as an elected voter can cast their votes at one of the 10 overseas polling stations.

Overseas polling stations close before polling ends in Singapore and the sealed ballot boxes are transported back to Singapore for counting. The Returning Officer has to receive the boxes within 10 days after Polling Day in Singapore for the votes to be valid and counted, though this can be extended by another seven days if: 

  • The number of overseas electors is crucial to the election result
  • The Returning Officer is satisfied that any of the boxes will not reach Singapore within the 10 days

If the Returning Officer deems that the overseas votes have no impact on the election results, the elected candidate will be announced once counting has completed in Singapore. 

However, if the overseas votes may have an impact on the results, the Returning Officer will first announce the number of votes cast in Singapore and the candidate in favour of winning. 

Only when the overseas votes reach Singapore and have been counted will the elected candidate be declared. 

Can candidates ask for votes to be recounted?

If the difference in votes between two candidates or groups of candidates is equal to or less than two per cent of the total number of valid votes made, a recount can be requested. However, only one recount can be requested.

During the 2015 election, the People’s Action Party (PAP) requested a recount at Aljunied GRC. The Workers’ Party was eventually declared the winners with 50.95 per cent of the votes cast with just 2,612 votes separating the two parties.    

A recount was called during the 1991 election, where Cheo Chai Chen of the Singapore Democratic Party won the Nee Soon Central SMC with a 0.6 per cent margin against PAP’s Ng Pock Too. A recount confirmed that he won by 168 votes.

A recount was also called for Potong Pasir SMC in the 2011 election when PAP’s Sitoh Yih Pin won against Lina Chiam of the Singapore People’s Party by 114 votes, a 0.7 per cent margin.

When will the results be out?

With the number of the electors at every general election, you can imagine that there is a lot of counting to be done before the elected candidate can be announced. 

Past elections have seen results announced only close to midnight at earliest and continuing all the ways into the wee hours of the night, especially if a recount is requested. 

In 2015, the Elections Department (ELD) released a sample count of the votes after polls for the very first time.

A sample count is conducted in the early stages of the counting process to get an indication of a possible result for an electoral division. 

The sample count result is determined by a random count of 100 ballot papers from each polling station of the electoral division. The votes are then added together, with weightage given to account for the difference in the number of votes cast at each station. 

The results are presented as a percentage of valid votes obtained by each candidate.

The introduction of sample counts is to prevent misinformation from unofficial sources while the votes are still being counted. Voters will also have a rough indication of the results from 9.30pm.

However, as it is a sample count, the public should still wait for the Returning Officer’s announcement of the official election results.

Where can you view the results?

The sample count results will be published on the ELD website while counting is underway. After the counting of votes is completed, the election results are then announced live on television by the Returning Officer and published in the Singapore Government Gazette.

In 2018, the ELD announced that they will use counting machines to tally votes in the next election. While votes will still be counted manually, the use of counting machines is expected to accelerate the counting process and reduce the number of officers required.

This means we can expect election results to be released earlier than in previous years. 

What happens to physical ballots?

After the votes have been counted and the results announced by the Returning Officer, ballot papers and other official documents used in the election are sealed in separate boxes. Candidates and their polling agents will witness the process and can place their own seals on the boxes.

The boxes are then transported under police escort and held in safe custody for six months at the Supreme Court. After which, they are destroyed to maintain the secrecy of the vote, unless the President intervenes.

Are you a first time voter or perhaps just not all too familiar with what happens during a general election? Click here to read everything you need to know about GE2020.

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