Pan-blue claims of illegal votes unfounded

By Chuang Po-lin莊柏林  / 

Fri, Jul 30, 2004 - Page 8

Pan-blue lawyers said at a press conference last week that 99 percent of the voting booths set up for the presidential election illegally handled ballots, and that therefore a new election was necessary. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and Vice President Annette Lu's (呂秀蓮) lawyers rebutted this claim and stressed that such remarks were inappropriate before the court reaches its verdict. The Central Election Commission also pointed out that it was not appropriate for opposition lawyers to attempt to influence the judicial decision by swaying public opinion.

Since the May 10 completion of the nationwide recount, the pan-blue camp has realized that it is unlikely to overturn the election results with another tally. In the recount, some votes that had been considered invalid were re-assessed as valid, but some previously valid votes were also declared invalid. The total number of disputed ballots was still not enough to reverse Chen's victory margin of 29,518 votes. And so, the opposition lawyers are attempting to nullify the election by citing irregularities they claim to have found in the voter registration list. They claim that 954,570 voters are problematic.

Of the contested 954,570 voters, 479,821 obtained their ballots by making thumbprints with approval stamps by electoral staff. Under electoral regulations, that is considered legal. The pan-blue attorneys are finding problems where none exists in claiming these votes are problematic.

As for the remaining 474,749 ballots, 82,653 were obtained with the voter's signature, 20,252 with thumbprints without approval stamps, 129,472 with unrecognizable thumb prints, 24,271 with signatures not in conformity with voters' names, 45,036 with unrecognizable stamps, 2,578 with signatures by someone other than the voter, 41,035 with corrections made and 55,020 with temporary or reissued identification cards. Those votes obtained with signatures or with temporary or reissued IDs are legally allowed. The rest are only minor flaws in the electoral process. The pan-blue lawyers lack evidence to call them potentially invalid votes.

Are these attorneys suggesting that all these disputed votes should be calculated as votes for the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) and People First Party Chairman James Soong (宋楚瑜)? If the votes are beyond recognition, are they suggesting that these tens of thousands of voters should go to court to explain who they actually voted for? As far as the thumbprints are concerned, identifying each of them is impossible. To be equitable, these votes can only be evenly distributed between Chen and Lien, and such distribution would not alter the election outcome.

To declare the election invalid, Lien's lawyers need to prove the election was illegal and that it violated the law to such a degree that it influenced the outcome of the election. Voting began at 8am and finished at 4pm and within several hours the counting was completed. Minor flaws were inevitable in such a swift process. But elections are handled in the same fashion worldwide. Unless evidence shows that electoral personnel engaged in illegal conduct such as vote-rigging, it is difficult to declare those electoral flaws illegal.

Lien's lawyers were unable to put forward evidence proving the election illegal or invalid when they filed the lawsuits. It was Chen who agreed to a recount because he wanted to prove his integrity. The motives behind the opposition lawyers' attempt to influence the court's decision by swaying public opinion are obvious and must be handled carefully.

Chuang Po-lin is a lawyer.

Translated by Jennie Shih