Thu, Nov 29, 2007 - Page 8 News List

EDITORIAL: The government must protect voters

After remaining silent and appearing defenseless in the face of pan-blue defiance over the one-step voting procedure, high-ranking officials from the central government finally got tough yesterday, reiterating the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) administration's stance that it would implement the procedure for the Jan. 12 legislative elections and referendums as decreed by the Central Election Commission (CEC).

President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) both said yesterday that the government would uphold the CEC's decision. Slamming the local electoral commissions in the 18 pan-blue-controlled local governments, they said the local commissions did not have the right to carry out a two-step voting procedure as they have insisted.

Chang also said that using a two-step voting format would be against the law should the pan-blue local governments go ahead with it.

It is about time the central government toughened up and put the wrangling to rest.

The pan-blues insist on a two-step voting procedure, arguing that the one-step voting formula adopted by the CEC would create confusion for voters and result in disputes at polling stations on election day.

But what's so confusing about it?

Under the one-step format, voters will receive two ballots for the legislative elections and two referendum ballots at the same time and then cast them into four different boxes. So, are the pan-blues saying that Taiwanese voters are too stupid to follow instructions as simple as picking up four ballots and casting them into four different boxes?

According to the Election and Recall Law for Civil Servants (公職人員選舉罷免法), the CEC, being the agency in charge of legislative elections and national referendums, is the ultimate authority in supervising district election commissions. In this case, it decided to adopt a one-step voting format to provide more convenience for voters.

The pan-blues' proposed two-step voting format would infringe upon voters' rights by exposing their preference to vote for the referendums should they have to collect their referendum ballots after voting in the legislative election.

Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) has said that Taipei City would not hand out ballots to those who refuse to follow the two-step voting system. He has also threatened to arrest anybody who defies his government at the polling stations.

The central government therefore, rather than engaging in a tiresome spat with the pan-blue local governments, has an even more important task at hand -- assuring the safety of voters when they go to polling stations.

Officials from the central government should issue a strong message to the electorate and promise that those who vote in pan-blue-governed constituencies will not face harassment or arrest when they demand to use the one-step voting procedure.

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