SINGAPORE: Voting hours at polling stations in Singapore have been extended to 10pm "so that voters can cast their votes", said the Elections Department (ELD) on Friday (Jul 10).
Voting in Singapore's 13th General Election was originally scheduled to end at 8pm.
"In exercise of his powers under section 39(3) of the Parliamentary Elections Act, the Returning Officer has extended the polling hours of polling stations in Singapore except polling stations in SHN (stay-home notice) designated facilities," said ELD in a press release.
"These polling stations will remain open until 10pm so that voters can cast their votes. While the queue situation across most polling stations has improved, a small number continue to see long queues. This extension in hours will allow enough time for all voters to cast their votes," added the press release.
A special voting hour between 7pm and 8pm had been set aside for voters on stay-home notice at home, on medical certificate for acute respiratory infection, or those with a fever of 37.5 degrees Celsius and above.
ELD said these voters can cast their vote as planned at polling stations which have no queue.
"For polling stations which still have long queues, election officials will ask SVH (special voting hour) voters to identify themselves and will isolate them in a separate holding area," said ELD.
"This is to prevent this group of voters from mixing with other voters."
ELD added: "Once the queue has cleared, election officials will then arrange for SVH voters to vote."
GE2020: ELD apologises for polling station queues, says gloves requirement contributed to long wait times
Special-voting hour voters are also "strongly urged" to check the queue situation for their polling station at VoteQ.gowhere.gov.sg.
"If the queue is long, we urge you to only arrive at the polling station at 9pm. Otherwise, SVH voters may have to wait a long time to cast their vote," said ELD.
Earlier on Friday, long lines were seen at several polling centres across Singapore, with queues snaking outside many polling stations.
Some seniors in the queue were given chairs to sit on while waiting.
ELD apologised to voters on Friday afternoon and said that it had done away with the requirement to wear disposable gloves at polling stations, as this contributed to long waiting times.
GE2020: Voters face 'longer than usual' queues at polling stations, younger people advised to stick to time bands
It said in a statement that “more voters had turned up this morning than expected outside their assigned voting time-bands".
“This, together with measures that had been put in place to ensure safe voting, had led to long queues,” ELD added.
In a media release on Friday night, the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) called on ELD to "rescind the decision" to extend polling hours to 10pm.
"The call to extend voting hour to 10pm is highly irregular and to the SDP's knowledge has never been done before," said SDP.
"Some of our polling agents have to leave as they understood that polling will end at 8pm. This will leave some polling stations unattended when the boxes are sealed and may render the results questionable," it added.
"We call on the ELD to rescind the decision and to end polling at 8pm as announced to all parties."
In a statement at 9.30pm, ELD said: "The decision to extend polling hours was made because there was still a small number of polling stations with long queues."
"A voter will only be able to vote if he has been issued the ballot paper by close of polls. Given the long queues at these polling stations, to ensure that all voters who had turned up would be able to cast their vote, the RO made the decision to extend polling hours to 10.00 pm," ELD added.
Despite the extension, there will be no change to the polling and counting procedures, ELD said in a subsequent statement.
Political parties and candidates "can continue to exercise their rights and obligations in ensuring a fair and open election", it added.
As of 8pm, 96 per cent of registered voters - more than 2.5 million people - have cast their ballots in Singapore.
"This turnout is higher than the turnout during the 2015 General Election, which was 2,304,331 votes cast (93.56% of registered voters) at the close of poll," said ELD.
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