I am writing in to highlight a pressing situation regarding overseas Singaporeans residing in Taiwan unable to cast their vote due to the absence of any overseas polling station in their vicinity. Qualifying deadlines and requirements were also ineffectively conveyed to many first-time voters.
The only option available for us if we do not want to miss this chance to cast our vote is to make last minute plans to fly back home. For students already struggling to fund our overseas studies, this option is financially daunting especially since the election date was only announced three weeks beforehand.
I understand the security concerns underlying the ban on Internet and postal voting. However, I am baffled by the scarcity of overseas polling stations available. At present, there are only nine polling stations available worldwide. Many overseas Singaporeans residing in major cities still have to travel up to a day or more in order to reach the polling stations located at the other end of the continent.
Shouldn’t most, if not all, major states with Singapore embassies and consulates be taken into consideration in the designation of overseas polling stations? I was informed by the Elections Department that the choice of location for overseas polling stations was made based on the number of Singaporeans in each country. While I do not have access to the actual statistics, it is alarming that the voting rights of Singaporeans working and studying in Taiwan were not taken seriously. The depressing fact remains that I would not be able to vote unless I sacrificed at least a month’s worth of living expenses allocated for the next semester.
Apart from this, many first-time voters working or studying overseas are unaware of the deadline to register as an overseas voter. Most of us were eagerly looking forward to casting our vote when the Writ of Election was issued, only to be told that the registration for overseas voters ended the moment the Writ of Election was issued. While I understand that it is our responsibility to ensure our eligibility to vote, it needs to be recognised that efforts to reach out to overseas voters needs to be stepped up.
If we honestly believe that very Singaporean’s vote counts, why make it so frustrating for overseas voters keen to play their part in shaping the future of their home country? This is the first time in twenty years that almost all Singaporeans have the chance to cast their vote, and I really treasure this opportunity.
There is a reason why I still bother to write in, why I did not choose to conveniently take the cynical stand by simply attributing all of this to “just yet another attempt” at gaining partisan advantage, based on popular belief and gross generalisations that overseas Singaporeans are inclined to vote for the Opposition. I fervently hope that my faith in the government’s sincerity and integrity is not misplaced. I believe that earnest efforts to make voting less daunting for overseas Singaporeans will be made if we care enough to speak up and highlight the issue; I still have faith that our concerns will be addressed and taken seriously if we have the heart to voice them out.
I believe that many Singaporeans who are studying and working overseas do have a strong sense of belonging to the country, and will contribute tremendously to the nation’s growth and diversity in time to come. Surely we do not deserve to be marginalised, or find ourselves trapped by regulations that make us feel marginalised.