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After weeks of doing research, and a day queuing in the sun, here are our reflections about the whole experience. IMAGES: UNSPLASH (LEFT) AND JANELLE YONG

My First Time…Voting For A Singaporean President

Even as the hubbub winds down, the 2023 Presidential Election has been the topic dominating the headlines lately. After spending the past few weeks immersing ourselves in all sorts of presidential election-related content, from countless lighthearted memes on TikTok, to serious debates on national television, we Singaporeans have made a decisive choice for Tharman Shanmugaratnam as our next president (ong lai, huat ah!).

Naturally, as two of our team's first-time voters in a presidential election (one a Gen Z, the other a Millennial - both of us were too young to vote in 2011), we were eager to discuss our thoughts and experiences. We look back on the lead-up to voting day and reflect on how the process has been for us:

Janelle: This was my first time voting in a presidential election (PE), though I voted in the last general election (GE). What about you?

Kai: Same here, and personally, I found the PE more exciting than the GE! In a way, you get to be more “intimate” with the contenders in the running, because all the attention is on three individuals. It was great to get to know more about these leaders in their respective fields and what they’ve done for Singapore the past few decades.

What kind of research did you do beforehand? 

Kai: When election season began, the candidate whom I was most familiar with was President-elect Tharman. And like many of my Gen Z peers, I got some of my info about Tan Kin Lian and Ng Kok Song by scrolling endlessly on TikTok (whoops, my daily average screen time definitely went up this past month).

Given that most of us first-time voters are Gen Z and Millennials, it should have been no surprise then that the use of social media was at the forefront of all the candidates’ campaigns to engage us.

But since there is a lot of misinformation on these platforms, I also watched the Presidential broadcasts on CNA and past interviews given by each candidate. Really interesting to hear about each of their lives and to observe the way they articulate their views!

Janelle: To be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to the campaigning. Not out of apathy (I understand why it’s important to vote wisely for our president), but simply because I already knew who I wanted to vote for.

What little I gleaned about the candidates and their campaigns from skimming the news didn’t change my mind either. So I guess you could say that the lead-up to voting day didn't feel like a big deal to me.

Was the big day everything you thought it would be?

Janelle: Voting day itself was a bit more hectic. I went with my parents, which meant I had to get up at the crack of dawn…Okay, 7am, but close enough. My dad wanted to go first thing in the morning so that we could get our votes in early and then enjoy the rest of the long weekend.

As it turns out, we ended up reaching our polling station at 7.30am, half an hour before it opened. We weren’t the earliest either - there was already a snaking queue forming by the time we got there. It was mostly old (well, older) people around my parents' age who were there. Though I did catch the interesting sight of someone who'd brought their dog along and was carrying it in their arms while queueing.

Kai: Haha, poor you… seems like all the other kanchiong spiders had the same idea as your dad 😛. I went at about 2pm, so there was close to nobody - I had also already made up my mind - and I was in and out within 10 minutes.

More importantly, I have to convey my heartfelt thanks to the volunteers on the day itself. I accompanied my handicapped paternal grandparents, and the volunteers were so on the ball when assisting us. They made sure the entire process was as easy as possible for them.

Janelle: Sounds like you had a smoother experience than me. I'm jealous 😛. To be honest, I was expecting to have to queue for ages, maybe an hour or so. That was the case when I voted in the last GE; not only was it super crowded with long queues everywhere, the queue moved very slowly.

This time, even though I had to queue a bit while waiting for the polling station to open, it wasn’t that bad. Once 8am arrived, the queue moved very quickly. We were in and out of there within less than 5 minutes. So I guess I can't complain too much. 

Any tips for future you or for future first-time voters?

Janelle: The next time I have to go vote, I’ll probably go later so that I won't have to stand and queue while waiting for the polling station to open. If Dad insists on going that early the next time, I’ll probably bring a portable fan, or at least a hand fan. We were queueing in an area without any ventilation, so it was quite hot.

Come to think of it, I should probably have brought a book to entertain myself while waiting...

Kai: Personally, I wouldn't do anything differently the next time. And being able to check online to see how packed my designated polling station would be before heading down was super helpful. It showed that it was “green” (less than or equal to 20 people), so I didn’t expect much of a queue, which turned out to be true.

So, the whole set up has been super smooth for the past two times I’ve voted. If I had to have one worry, it would be whether I was stamping in the correct box. But if it's your first time voting in the next election (GE or PE), you could prepare snacks, water, or even a Nintendo Switch if you foresee yourself having to wait.

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