We analyze the structure and stability of singular singly quantized vortices in a rotating spin-1 Bose-Einstein condensate. We show that the singular vortex can be energetically stable in both the ferromagnetic and polar phases despite the existence of a lower-energy nonsingular coreless vortex in the ferromagnetic phase. The spin-1 system exhibits an energetic hierarchy of length scales resulting from different interaction strengths, and we find that the vortex cores deform to a larger size determined by the characteristic length scale of the spin-dependent interaction. We show that in the ferromagnetic phase the resulting stable core structure, despite apparent complexity, can be identified as a single polar core with an axially symmetric density profile which is nonvanishing everywhere. In the polar phase, the energetically favored core deformation leads to a splitting of a singly quantized vortex into a pair of half-quantum vortices that preserves the topology of the vortex outside the extended core region, but breaks the axial symmetry of the core. The resulting half-quantum vortices exhibit nonvanishing ferromagnetic cores.