Being a first-time voter can be exciting, stressful and confusing – all at once.
There are many ways to know you have become an adult in Singapore – from getting your driver’s licence, to having a job and receiving monthly CPF contributions for it. However, nothing really screams “adulting” more than finally receiving your very own polling card.
Being a first-time voter for the 2020 General Elections felt like a very heavy responsibility that I did not feel ready to take on. Nevertheless, the entire experience was an interesting and eye-opening one.
As a 22-year-old, I knew the importance of my role as a legally-voting Singaporean. It only takes one vote to change the outcome of the results and determine how the GRCs are run over the subsequent few years.
Therefore, I took it upon myself to complete my due diligence, giving extra attention to my own area – Jurong GRC, before the actual polling day.
Ever since young, I had always looked forward to the day that I could cast my own vote.
Despite having barely any knowledge of the political scene in Singapore, I remembered how the campaigning process always made me feel a rush of excitement. So I naturally looked forward to watching the political parties form their contesting teams and set up their rallies and campaigns to win Singaporeans over this year.
However, due to COVID-19, the physical rallies were all pushed online. While it was a logical and appropriate measure during such a vulnerable period, I couldn’t help but feel that the entire experience felt underwhelming.
While I expected to see more outreach programmes and personal appeals to the locals, the online efforts seemed almost lacklustre. The online rallies and live-streams felt distant, making it harder for me to resonate with the political views and manifestos presented.
Additionally, the lack of physical touch created a barrier between myself and the potential governing parties; I barely knew the candidates contesting in my GRC and had no first-hand interaction with them previously, making it difficult for me to understand who I was voting for and what their views for the future of my GRC were.
It didn’t help that one of the first campaigning-related activities I witnessed was a PAP vehicle driving around the car parks within my GRC, campaigning through speakers that I could hardly hear.
Being unable to attend physical rallies, I wanted to enlighten myself more on the issues being tackled and the measures the parties were promising to take to build a stable future for Singapore. Therefore, I educated myself by researching more in-depth about the political parties contesting in Singapore, especially those in my own GRC.
I engaged in several debates with a few of my friends, sharing our differing views and understandings of the competing parties. Being first-time voters, it was easy to misinterpret information taken off the internet. While the debates got a little heated at first, we soon realised that the majority of our arguments were based on how we felt about a certain political party emotionally, rather than basing them on the facts and manifestos provided.
I found myself then going to experienced voters for clarifications on how the political system in Singapore worked.
I tried my best to make my decision based on the facts that each political party presented during their rallies and debates. Additionally, being able to get insights and opinions from a mix of first-time, experienced and extremely opinionated individuals helped me shape my understanding.
Through agreeing and disagreeing with many political opinions and insights, I was able to narrow down and determine my own political preferences.
Nevertheless, it was almost impossible to avoid the last-minute jitters as polling day finally arrived. With my designated polling station only a block away, I had barely any time to be indecisive and question the choice I had already set my mind on. And thanks to my designated voting time-slot of 2pm-4pm, I did not have to deal with any waiting or long queues that many of my peers had complained about earlier on in the day.
When it was time to cast my vote, I mentally reminded myself of the reasons leading to the decision I had come to and confidently marked out my choice. I turned my ballot in, and the deed was done – I had finally cast my first vote!
Watching the polling results was far more exciting this year, knowing that my vote played a part in influencing the results. While my family chose to retire to bed halfway through the release of the final results, my sister and I chose to stay awake till the very last result was announced, only calling it a night at 4am.
We barely noticed the time and always felt a rush of adrenaline each time results were being announced.
The polling results reminded me of how lucky I was to be able to let my voice be heard in a country that values the opinions of their citizens.
Despite my attempts to educate myself as much as I could over such a short span of time, I knew there was much more about the Singapore political scene that I had yet to fully understand.
My voting experience this year was fruitful and has also motivated me to be more involved in our country’s politics in order to make a more informed vote in the next General Elections. I will now make a conscious effort to attend more events organised by the community and even attend several ‘meet-the-people’ sessions to interact and get to know the members of parliament elected into my own GRC.
Nevertheless, I am thankful for the opportunity to let my opinions play a part in the structuring of my GRC, and am looking forward to seeing if the elected parties stay true to their manifestos and deliver to the Singaporeans who supported them.
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