The Central Election Commission (CEC) yesterday postponed next month’s referendum to Dec. 18, due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The vote, originally slated for Aug. 28, would be on proposals to protect the algal reefs in Datan Borough (大潭) in Taoyuan’s Guanyin District (觀音), bar pork imports containing ractopamine, combine referendum votes with national elections and restart work on the mothballed Fourth Nuclear Power Plant in New Taipei City’s Gongliao District (貢寮).
Mobilizing nearly 270,000 workers and volunteers to help at 17,479 voting stations would be problematic under a nationwide level 3 COVID-19 alert, the commission said.
The alert, extended until July 12, prohibits meetings of more than five people indoors and 10 outdoors, and requires that schools, community centers, temples and other places where large groups gather close, which would hinder the commission’s ability to prepare for the referendums.
The CEC cited Article 24 of the Referendum Act (公民投票法) and Constitutional Interpretation No. 553 as giving it the authority to delay the vote, adding that it was unanimously approved by commission members.
CEC Chairman Lee Chin-yung (李進勇) said that the commission had sought opinions from local governments and branch offices, with most saying that the commission should respect the opinion of the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), which had said that holding large-scale events such as a referendum vote could increase the risk of more cluster infections.
Referendums require a significant number of staffers and volunteers from local governments, districts and boroughs, most of whom are already busy with epidemic prevention efforts, Lee said.
Rescue Datan’s Algal Reefs Alliance convener Pan Chong-cheng (潘忠政), who sponsored a referendum to relocate a planned liquefied national gas (LNG) terminal off the coast of Datan, said the commission’s decision to delay the vote was “commendable.”
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), whose members initiated two of the referendums, said that the Legislative Yuan should convene a provisional session to discuss rules on delaying referendums and implementing an absentee voting system.
The KMT also said that the government should halt imports of US pork containing ractopamine and suspend construction of the LNG terminal until referendum voting has finished.
Additional reporting by Shih Hsiao-kuang and Lo Chi
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