A man who put a ballot from the nation’s first referendum in 2004 up for auction online has violated the Referendum Act (公民投票法) and may face prosecution, the Central Election Commission (CEC) said yesterday.
“Although a referendum ballot is handed to a voter for the purpose of expressing his or her opinion on a certain issue, it remains the property of election authorities,” the CEC said in a statement released yesterday. “Hence, it is illegal to carry a referendum ballot outside of the polling booth even if it is not stamped.”
Taking a referendum ballot outside is a violation of the Referendum Act that is punishable by a fine of up to NT$15,000 or a prison term of up to one year, the statement said.
“Since it’s illegal to take a referendum ballot out of a ballot station, anyone who buys it from an online auction site or serves as the intermediary could also be prosecuted for buying a stolen object,” the CEC statement said.
“We therefore urge the public not to buy or sell ballots on the Internet to avoid engaging in illegal activities,” it said.
A man known only as Mr. H had submitted a ballot from the referendum in 2004 for sale on Yahoo Auctions.
“I smuggled the ballot out of the polling booth in 2004 and kept it for five years. It was a rare opportunity for anyone who wanted to collect a souvenir of the important step in Taiwan’s democracy,” Mr. H said in the item description.
Mr. H told the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister newspaper) that he had brought a pink sheet of paper — the same color as the referendum ballot — into the voting station.
Mr. H then put the ballot in his pocket, cast the pink sheet of blank paper into the ballot box and took the referendum ballot out, he was quoted as saying.
Although Mr. H said in the Liberty Times report published yesterday that he would keep the ballot if no one wanted to buy it, he may soon face prosecution, as the CEC said that it had reported the case to the police and to the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office.
The item was removed by Yahoo Auctions yesterday afternoon.