How to hold elections during a pandemic

PETALING JAYA: At least 153 countries and territories have held national or subnational elections despite concerns related to Covid-19, according to a recent global study.

These elections were held between February 2020 and December 2021, said the report from International IDEA, an intergovernmental organisation that supports sustainable democracy.

Despite the pandemic, elections have run smoothly, with nations adapting and updating their voting machinery and processes.

During the national election in Singapore in July 2020, voters received a recommended time-band to cast their ballots on polling day.

Seniors aged 65 and above were allotted two-hour voting time-bands from 8am to noon, for example.

Voters who were on Stay-Home Notice at designated facilities, such as hotels, could vote at special polling stations away from other voters.

In South Korea, confirmed and suspected Covid-19 patients were permitted to vote from their homes and hospitals, with mail and absentee ballots also being implemented.

Quarantined voters were escorted to polling stations at the end of election day, where they voted during designated hours.

Those under quarantine were also allowed to cast their votes by mail.

In Japan, postal voting legislation enacted in June 2021 allowed Covid-19 patients to cast ballots without violating requests to refrain from going out.

Japanese citizens could cast their postal votes by filling in a set of ballots sent to homes or hotels and sending them back to their election councils. Japanese nationals living abroad could also vote through the mail or at diplomatic missions abroad such as embassies.

In Australia, voters had the option of casting their votes either in-person or by post.

Citizens who were overseas during the election period were allowed to vote at overseas voting centres that were made known in the weeks after the announcement of the federal election.

Voters residing outside the state or territory were allowed to vote at interstate voting centres.

Similar to Singapore, early voting periods were also established with timetables being shared with the voters.

In the United States, curb-side voting at selected polling stations was introduced in certain states, where a poll worker would bring all necessary materials, including the ballot, to the voter’s car.

The country also encouraged states to increase the number of polling centres for early voting along with extensions of operation hours.

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