Just 4,672 overseas Taiwanese have registered to cast their ballots in the elections on Jan. 14, the lowest number since the nation began holding direct presidential elections in 1996, government data showed yesterday.
Election-related rules require overseas Taiwanese who do not have registered permanent residence in Taiwan for more than two years to enroll to vote, with permission granted only to those who have had their household registered for more than six months.
Among those registered, 4,349 were determined to be eligible voters, the Central Election Commission said in its briefing to the Cabinet yesterday on preparations for the elections.
Some overseas Taiwanese who return to vote are not included in the tally because although living abroad, they still have household registrations in Taiwan and therefore they do not have to register in advance with the commission.
The number of Taiwanese living overseas who returned to Taiwan and voted in previous presidential elections was 7,356 in 1996, 8,636 in 2000, 11,364 in 2004 and 9,132 in 2008, CEC data showed.
Liu Lien-hua (劉連華), a senior official at the Overseas Compatriot Affairs Commission, attributed the decline to an increasing number of overseas nationals moving their household registrations back to Taiwan in recent years.
“This is presumably because of the global economic downturn and stricter rules on how National Health Insurance members can resume their coverage after living abroad, forcing some overseas nationals to keep their household registration in the country so that they can continue their healthcare coverage,” Liu said.
Commission figures show that the total number of eligible voters in this year’s presidential election is 18,090,255, compared with 17,321,622 voters in the previous presidential election four years ago.
In the legislative elections, which are being held on the same day, 267 candidates are running for 73 of the single-seat regional constituencies in the 113-seat legislature. The remaining 40 seats are composed of 34 legislators-at-large and representatives of overseas Taiwanese, and six Aboriginal seats.
The number of Aborigines eligible to vote for the three legislative seats reserved for mountain Aborigines and another three for plains Aborigines are 183,455 and 171,587 respectively.
Voting on election day is scheduled to take place between 8am and 4pm, the commission said, adding that it has set up 14,806 polling stations nationwide and that it would have 198,136 staffers at polling stations to ensure that the voting and counting go smoothly.
Meanwhile, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said that at least 103 extra cross-strait flights would be provided in the week leading up to the elections, when many Taiwanese living in China are expected to return home to cast their vote.
Of these, 52 will be offered by Taiwanese airlines and 51 by Chinese carriers, the administration said, adding that it could further increase the number of flights depending on demand.
The majority of the flights — 36 by Taiwanese carriers and 27 by Chinese carriers — are scheduled for the day before the election and on the polling day itself, the administration said.
The additional flights are part of a cross-strait agreement to increase flight numbers to cope with high demand during the Lunar New Year holiday period, which begins on Jan. 22, it added.