Written by: Commentary Editing Room
2020-08-05 12:00Last update date: 2020-08-05 12:00
The government said that in response to the new crown pneumonia epidemic, the Legislative Council election was postponed by one year. Although the decision has caused controversy from all walks of life, no matter whether the decision is right or wrong, it cannot cover up the lack of the local electoral system, that is, it has not been able to handle the qualifications of foreign voters to vote. Chief Executive Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor called this an "opportunity" for reforming the election. Former Legislative Council Chairman Jasper Jasper proposed to vote by mail and set up voting stations in other cities in the Greater Bay Area.
There are opinions in the community that fundamentally question overseas voting, mainly targeting 100,000 Hong Kong voters in the Mainland, especially in other cities in the Greater Bay Area. They believe that since these voters live in mainland cities for a long time, they may not meet the legal requirement of "usually residing in Hong Kong". Second, with the improvement of transportation, they can go back and forth to Hong Kong on the same day without the need for additional overseas voting. Third, voters living in other cities in the Greater Bay Area are mostly established voters. Relaxing voting methods is beneficial to the establishment.
Regarding the alleged violation of the "usually resident in Hong Kong" requirement, Jasper Tsang believes that the relevant arrangements should be discussed in an open manner, and pointed out: "What are the problems with voting?" (Photo by Luo Junhao)
The right to vote is a basic right
In response to the first question, the government of course has to clarify the time limit for ordinary residence in Hong Kong to decide whether to grant Hong Kong permanent residents who have lived abroad the right to vote. The legislature should formulate a more specific definition, and this definition is also suitable for overseas voters, not just mainland Hong Kong people. Those who have the second question should take into account the time required for the voting process, especially when the entry and exit quarantine measures will be implemented. Voting is a basic right, and the government should find ways to facilitate their practice. Regardless of whether they are supporters of the establishment or democrats, they should not be deprived of their right to vote, and society should not guess the voting orientation of eligible voters.
Others have described that setting up polling stations abroad is like a black box operation, and candidates cannot send their agents to monitor votes. However, society must distinguish whether it is opposed in principle to Hong Kong voters outside of Hong Kong from exercising their right to vote, or whether it is just administratively deemed too complicated. If it is the latter, the one-year time vote is just used to review and overcome the problem, to facilitate all eligible voters to exercise their voting rights, and to let public opinion judge their opponents fairly and openly.
In fact, overseas voting is in principle in line with Hong Kong’s existing laws, and foreign countries have mature operations. After the election is postponed, the legislature has more time to amend the laws and increase the legal basis for overseas voting. This includes the designation of overseas polling stations, the determination of voting methods, transportation and counting locations. The Electoral Management Committee needs to develop a complete voter registration and verification system.
Hong Kong people may lack confidence in voting by mail. In past ballot scandals, voters with different surnames can register the same address. However, some of the principals were later brought to justice, and the Registration and Electoral Office later tightened the method of address verification. In the District Council election last year, few cases of vote seeding were reported. Even in the United States, President Trump once criticized mail voting for huge fraud. However, his remarks were quickly criticized as false. Nearly a quarter of voters in the U.S. elections in recent years voted by mail, but a 2017 study pointed out that there were very few frauds involved, and various fraudulent methods were less than 0.0001% of the total votes.
The Legislative Council election is postponed for one year, and the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress will make a decision on the operational arrangements for the next year. (Profile picture)
Perfect the system regardless of yellow or blue
The United States stipulates that if voters want to vote by mail, they must first register not to vote at the polling station on the polling day and provide their name and address. The local election department will mail the ballot and two envelopes to the address about one month before the polling day, together with some instructions. The voter must sign on the outer envelope to prove that he is a registered voter. The election department will also check the names of voters and compare signatures. The security measures for postal voting in the United States may not be the best one, but it is by no means as full of loopholes as Trump said. It also proves that postal voting is not infeasible.
With the changes in the population structure and the increase in mobility, more and more Hong Kong people have to travel between different cities. Even pro-democratic voters may live in other cities for reasons such as work or studying abroad. To improve the voting system, regardless of political stance, we should put aside the "yellow" and "blue" colored glasses and let all voters speak out through the ballot. This is Hong Kong where democracy is the core value.
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Legislative Council election Legislative Council election 2020 Greater Bay Area