The Returning Officer’s main job is to oversee the organization of an election and ensure that the process is fair. Under his watch, election officials are entrusted with the responsibility of running polling stations and counting ballots.
The Returning Officer also ensures that contesting politicians keep to the rules of election campaigning. This involves scrutinizing every poster they wish to put on display and ensuring that they are not hung within a radius of 50 metres from a polling station.
And perhaps the most publicly visible of the RO’s list of duties — once the election comes to a close, he or she had to announce the results.We all remember Mr Yam Ah Mee, the returning officer of the 2011 general election, whose monotonous voice and expressionless demeanor inspired a host of viral memes and Youtube remixes.
Appointed by the Prime Minister, the returning officer is a civil servant, not a politician. Mr Tan Meng Dui — deputy secretary of the Ministry of National Development (MND) — has been serving as Returning Officer since 1 Feb 2018 and will likely be in charge of the upcoming general election.