While mulling implementation of absentee voting in the 2012 presidential election, the Central Election Commission (CEC) yesterday reaffirmed that citizens living overseas will not be given the right to vote by absentee ballots because of concern that China might try to influence elections results.
“There are millions of Taiwanese businesspeople working in the PRC [People’s Republic of China], and absentee voting might be manipulated by the PRC,” Central Election Commission Vice Chairman Liu I-chou (劉義周) told an international seminar in Taipei organized by the CEC and the Association of Asian Election Authorities.
“Besides, I think the public is not ready for overseas voting yet,” he added. “The public favors a system that delivers a quick answer, and they are reluctant to accept a system that is not transparent.”
Indonesian General Elections Commissioner Syamsul Bahri said that Indonesia encountered some problems when implementing overseas voting.
“As stated in the Indonesian General Election Law, the election day inside or outside the country have to be [on] the same day. It means that overseas citizen[s] probably have to vote during the business day,” he said. “In fact, they often choose to work rather than going to Indonesian [consular] premises to give a vote.”
As a result of problems such as the one that Indonesia has, International Foundation for Electoral Systems in the Philippines chief of party Beverly Hagerdon Thakur said the cost of conducting overseas voting and the turnout could be of a concern for election authorities, although she supports external voting in general.
Indian Deputy Election Commissioner Alok Shukla said that in India, absentee voting — whether in person or through mail-in ballots — only applies to certain -categories of voters, such as soldiers, police officers and -government employees or displaced citizens, who cannot make it to their designated poll stations on the election day.
Japan, on the other hand, has a more flexible approach to absentee voting.
Those who cannot make it to polling stations on election day may take part in early voting by mailing in their ballots prior to the election, voting in designated poll stations in cities other than their hometowns, Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications Election Affairs Deputy Director Hara Masanobu said.
“In modern political systems, the people of a country voice their opinions through elections, which in turn help realize the idea of popular sovereignty. As democracies seek to expand and protect the right to vote, they often recognize the need to put in place an absentee voting mechanism to protect this right,” Central Election Commission and Association of Asian Election Authorities chairwoman Chang Po-ya (張博雅) told the seminar in English.
“When a country reforms its electoral system, it must take into account its historical, social and cultural context,” Chang added.