Turning 21 years old might not mean you can vote just yet
Updated: Feb 10
Are you allowed to vote if you turn 21 on election day? You’ve just moved house — where do you vote? That depends on the cut-off date of the current voter roll
While some take the periodic revision of the Registers of Electors as a harbinger of a General Election, a revision has not always translated into an election in the same year. Enthusiasts are better off waiting for the EBRC report
By Christalle Tay
ILLUSTRATION: LORAINE LEE
Singapore citizens who have just turned 21 and can’t wait to cast their vote in the next General Election had better keep their enthusiasm in check.
That’s because the cut-off date for eligibility to vote depends on whether the Registers of Electors will undergo another round of revisions before the next election due by April 2021.
The last revised Registers certified in April this year included citizens who were eligible to vote up till the cut-off date, Feb 1. This means that those who turn 21 or become new citizens after 1 Feb 2019 will not be able to vote.
Those who move houses after that date will still have to vote at their old constituency, although polling cards will be sent to their new residences. Residents are considered as having moved houses upon the registration of their new address with the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA).
The revision of the Registers has almost always coincided with election years or carried out because three years had elapsed since the last election — a rule stipulated by law. Even so, although the Registers were revised early this year, voters should not assume that a 2019 General Election will follow.
For example, after the Registers were revised in 2009, they underwent yet another round of revisions the following year, bringing the total number of eligible voters to 2,311,582. It was revised again in 2011 in time for the 7 May General Election, with total numbers brought up to 2,350,873 eligible voters.
TABLE: CHRISTALLE TAY/ SOURCE: ELECTIONS DEPARTMENT SINGAPORE
The number of eligible electors has been rising across elections.
SOURCE: ELECTIONS DEPARTMENT SINGAPORE
The current set of Registers had 2,594,740 eligible voters when it was certified in April, which is 131,814 more voters than in the 2015 General Election. The number, however, is increasing as individuals can apply to have their names restored to the Registers. Application is open all year-round but closes when the election writ is issued.
First-time voters comprise mainly new adult citizens as well as new citizens, who have numbered at about 20,000 a year for the past three years. The following chart represents the number of citizenships granted, excluding children born overseas who received citizenship by descent.
SOURCE: STRATEGY GROUP OF PMO, POPULATION IN BRIEF 2019
Those looking for more definite signs of a nearing election are better off waiting for the Electoral Boundaries Review Committee (EBRC) to publish its report.
The committee, already into its fourth month of drawing up battle lines for parties to contest in, typically takes two to four months to finish its report. The elections can be called any time after that. Across the last five elections, the wait has been between a day (GE2001) and two months (GE2011).
In dividing the island into constituencies, the committee normally accounts for shifting demographics. Significant shifts have been observed in SMCs like Hong Kah North, Sengkang and Bukit Batok, which between the certification of the Registers in 2017 and 1 February this year, have seen 25 per cent, 16.7 per cent and 9.5 per cent increases in voters respectively.
GRCs have seen less dramatic increases between the two years, with top contenders coming in at 11.1 per cent increase in Sembawang, 8.6 per cent in Pasir Ris-Punggol, and 5.5 per cent in Chua Chu Kang.
SOURCE: Written Reply to Parliamentary Question, 1 April 2009
But this time, the committee has to consider the additional parameters assigned by the Prime Minister – to further reduce the average size of Group Member Constituencies (GRCs) and to have more than the current 13 Single Member Constituencies (SMCs).
The average size of GRCs is now 4.75 — with two six-member GRCs, eight five-member GRCs, and six four-member GRCs.
With just under two months away from the end of 2019 and the EBRC report nowhere in sight, those who turned 21 this year in the months after February might just have their chance to vote in the next election.