Fri, Apr 26, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Cabinet approves absentee vote

CHINA FACTOR:The bill does not include allowing overseas absentee votes to allay public concern that Beijing might use elections to influence Taiwan, an official said

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

Despite public concern over potential voter manipulation by China forces, the Cabinet yesterday approved amendments to make way for absentee voting in presidential elections and referendums.

The Cabinet passed proposed amendments to the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act (總統副總統選舉罷免法) and the Referendum Act (公民投票法) to allow voters to cast ballots in alternative polling stations.

According to the amendments, any qualified voter can vote in a polling station in a city or country where they have not established voting residency, as long as they apply to do so three months before the voting day.

It is estimated that less than 5 percent of the electorate would apply for absentee voting, Huang Li-hsin (黃麗馨), director-general of the Ministry of the Interior’s Department of Civil Affairs, told a press conference held after the Cabinet meeting.

About 1.34 million people, or 7.3 percent of the nation’s 18.34 million eligible voters, might have to vote in alternative polling stations, she said.

These would include 190,000 election workers, 60,000 police officers and 220,000 military personnel on duty during voting day, as well as 550,000 employees and 320,000 students who live in a city or country where they have not established voting residency, she added.

The proposals have met with concern that Beijing could influence the vote of China-based Taiwanese businesspeople, such as demanding that they vote in Kinmen or Matsu, which have fewer voters, so it is easier to guess who they voted for.

Huang said the ministry had addressed these concerns by not including overseas absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, which are more vulnerable to external influences.

The amendment to the Referendum Act also excludes absentee voting in a national referendum when the plebiscite is initiated by the president in accordance with Article 17 of the act, Huang said.

Article 17 states that the president may call for a referendum if the nation’s security is under threat. Given the urgency of the situation, there will not be enough time to handle applications for absentee voting, Huang added.

Executive Yuan spokesperson Cheng Li-wun (鄭麗文) and Premier Jiang Yi-huah (江宜樺) told the Cabinet meeting at the absentee voting system would allow greater public participation and strengthen democracy.

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