The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus yesterday proposed extending polling times, making election day a national holiday and lowering the minimum voting age from 20 to 18, citing the just concluded South Korean presidential election as an example of the importance of having a vibrant electoral process.
“Voting rights are protected by the Constitution. However, election laws and regulations have kept many people, blue-collar workers in particular, from voting,” DPP Legislator Pan Men-an (潘孟安) told a press conference.
Major elections in Taiwan are usually held on Saturdays and polls are open from 8am to 4pm.
Many blue-collar workers are either not allowed to take the day off or cannot afford to do so because they would lose one day’s wages, Pan said.
“Even if the workers wanted to cast their ballots, they could not make it to the polling stations because the eight-hour period when they are open coincides with most people’s working hours,” Pan said.
Polling booths in South Korea, which designates election day as a national holiday so everyone can vote, open at 6am and close at 6pm, Pan said.
Polling time in most countries, including Japan, the US, Canada, UK and Singapore, is at least 12 hours, he said.
“We have previously proposed extending the poll closing time to 5pm, but the Central Election Commission has always rejected the proposal, citing difficulties with personnel and election affairs,” Pan said.
“Taiwan has the shortest polling time among major democracies because of personnel and workload problems, which is a ridiculous excuse. Why can everyone else do it?” Pan said.
The government should protect people’s right to vote and endeavor to have as many people participate in the democratic process as possible, the lawmaker said.
That is why the party is proposing to make election days national holidays and allow citizens who are older than 18 to exercise their voting rights, even if doing so would mean amending the Constitution, Pan said.
DPP Legislator Hsu Chih-chieh (許智傑) urged the electoral commission to stop making excuses to stall the proposed changes.
“The commission is obligated to ensure people exercise their Constitutionally protected right to vote. It should increase its manpower and do whatever it takes to deliver extended polling time,” Hsu said.