Friday 4 September 2015

GE2015: Elections Department to announce sample counts of how votes are cast on Sept 11

A first this time: Official sample count of poll results
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 3 Sep 2015

The Elections Department will provide a sample count which will give an early indication of the possible result for each electoral division for next Friday's general election.

It will make public the results of a sample count for each of the 16 group representation constituencies (GRCs) and 13 single-member constituencies (SMCs), from as early as 10pm on Polling Day. This is a first in an election here.

Returning Officer Ng Wai Choong hoped it "will help prevent unnecessary speculation and reliance on unofficial sources of information" while counting is still under way and before the results are announced.

The sample results will be derived from a count of 100 ballot papers from each polling station within a constituency, soon after voting ends at 8pm. There are 833 polling stations islandwide.

People awaiting the results will get a sense of how voting panned out from as early as 10pm, instead of past midnight - except in close contests. The Elections Department stressed that the sample count results are not final, and advised people to wait for the Returning Officer's announcement.

Sample counts were done in previous polls, but were used as an internal check and not made public.

The Straits Times understands that the sample counts were found to have a confidence level of 95 per cent, plus or minus 4 percentage points. Experts said this means it is still likely that a sample count result of 55 per cent to 45 per cent could swing in favour of the latter candidate. But the chance of this is less likely than a sample count result of, say, 51 per cent to 49 per cent.

National University of Singapore economist Davin Chor, who has studied voting patterns, said having sample counts is "in the right direction of introducing greater transparency in how the vote count is conducted".

Thumbs up for making sample count public
'Flash estimate' will add certainty during vote count but could raise tensions in tight races
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 3 Sep 2015

The move to make public the sample count results for the coming general election was generally welcomed by political watchers yesterday.

But some were concerned that it would fuel speculation and emotions, keeping candidates and supporters on tenterhooks, particularly in contests which are too close to call.

Most experts said yesterday that the move will introduce an element of greater certainty during the counting of votes. They noted that during the 2011 General Election, rumours had swirled on unofficial channels even before the final results were announced.

Said Dr Gillian Koh of the Institute of Policy Studies: "The move must have been precipitated by our changing media landscape and the culture of political engagement that has been created. We have become more impatient for news, we are more networked and able to mobilise sentiments and crowds quickly."

The Elections Department yesterday said it will make public the results of a sample count - an official indication of how votes were cast at each of the 16 GRCs and 13 SMCs - soon after voting ends at 8pm on Polling Day next week.

Doing so, said National University of Singapore (NUS) economics professor Davin Chor, provides a "flash estimate" that can go some way towards quelling rumour-mongering.

The PAP candidate for Hong Kah North SMC, Dr Amy Khor, agreed. She said it will prevent "sending people into a frenzy, whether you're on the winning side or on the losing side".

But the move could add to tension in close-run contests, some said. Dr Chor urged Singaporeans to interpret the sample count results with caution to account for the statistical margin of error.

NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser said: "There is also the danger that an 'early' winner in a closely fought contest may turn out to be a loser in the final count, thereby leading to rumours and insinuations about the manipulation of results."

Singaporeans First chief Tan Jee Say simply said: "Speculation is part of the game."

To tackle this, Singapore Management University law don Eugene Tan, a former Nominated MP, proposed that the Elections Department give updates at "regular intervals" beyond the initial sample count.

He added: "If the sample count reveals a cliffhanger, the lack of authoritative information on the state of play between the sample count and the official announcement may just fuel speculation and misinformation."

Economist Walter Theseira said: "Basically, this move gives winners more time to prepare their victory speeches and losers more time to draft their concession speeches."

He noted that losing candidates in many countries publicly concede defeat once it is statistically certain that they will lose.

And political analyst Derek da Cunha said: "Some of the lower-profile candidates and minor parties that secure a vote share of under 40 per cent in the sample count can call it an early night instead of continuing to live in hope which, in the first place, was never there."

Additional reporting by Melissa Lin and Aw Cheng Wei

By making public the sample count results, it allows the Elections Department of Singapore to ensure at the very least...
Posted by IPS Commons on Wednesday, September 2, 2015

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