Sun, Nov 16, 2008 - Page 2 News List

Referendum short of threshold

NOT LIKELY For a referendum to pass, more than 50 percent of a district’s voters must cast a ballot, of which 50 percent must be affirmative — a difficult prospect


The nation’s first local referendum initiated by a non-political group suffered a defeat yesterday with a low turnout.

The referendum, proposed by the Kaohsiung Teachers’ Association (KTA) to downsize classes in the city’s elementary and junior high schools, garnered 56,375 affirmative votes and 5,432 negative votes out of the 62,068 voters participating in the referendum.

A total of 1,159,368 voters in Kaohsiung were eligible to vote on the referendum.

The KTA referendum stated: “A considerable decrease in the size of classrooms will have a positive effect on students’ learning. The maximum number of students in a first, third and fifth grade class in the city’s elementary schools and the maximum number of new students in a junior high school class should be 31 pupils in the last school year. The number should decrease by two students every school year until the maximum class size reaches 25 students in the 2010 school year.”

The official turnout of the KTA referendum, the Kaohsiung City Election Commission said, was 5.35 percent — far lower than the 50 percent turnout threshold stipulated in the Referendum Law (公投法).

The Referendum Law states that two thresholds need to be attained for a referendum to be valid. First, more than 50 percent of the city’s eligible voters need to cast a referendum ballot, and second, of the valid votes, 50 percent of the voters need to respond in the affirmative for the referendum to be passed.

None of the six national referendums held in the nation prior to the KTA’s referendum has managed to attain the 50 percent threshold, but their turnouts all exceeded 26 percent. The previous six referendums were all proposed by political parties. The KTA’s proposal was the first referendum in the nation initiated by a non-political group regarding a non-political issue.

The KTA launched its campaign in early 2006 and passed the first signature threshold — 0.5 percent of the city’s eligible voters — by gathering 5,646 signatures on Oct. 12 last year. The association later passed the second-stage signature drive — 5 percent of the city’s eligible voters — by submitting 57,472 signatures to the Kaohsiung City Election Commission on May 21 this year.

Kaohsiung resident Chiang Chun-ming (蔣俊明) claimed the city government failed to promote yesterday’s vote.

“This was a pity,” he said.

Hung Ya-fen (洪雅芬), a mother of one, said she did not know of the referendum until her neighbor informed her. She voted against the referendum, saying she was concerned about wasting government money on more school buildings to accommodate the extra classes if the proposal were to pass.

Kuo Shih-fu (郭石福), 71, on the other hand, thought the government would be able to solve “wandering teachers” difficulty in seeking a teaching job if the referendum were passed.

“No matter what the outcome is, we will continue to push this agenda,” KTA chairman Yu Chu-cheng (于居正) said, adding that although very little public discussion of the proposal took place during the KTA’s promotion of the referendum, a number of Kaohsiung residents had begun to take an interest in the city’s education system.

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