The referendum to lower the voting age to 18 needs to be held concurrently with local elections in November, considering the high threshold required for a constitutional amendment to pass in a plebiscite, a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) official said on Saturday.
The Legislative Yuan on Friday voted 109-0 to lower the voting age to 18 from 20, setting the stage for a referendum to put the constitutional amendment to a public vote. The referendum must be held within three months following a six-month buffer period, meaning that it must be held between October and the end of this year. At least half of all eligible voters must vote in its favor for the amendment to pass.
The DPP, a cosponsor of the amendment, pushed for its passage this month in the hopes of holding the referendum concurrently with the local elections set for Nov. 26, on the grounds that a higher turnout would boost its chance of passing.
Photo: Tien Yu-hua, Taipei Times
The Central Election Commission has the final say on the feasibility of holding the votes concurrently.
This year’s vote would be fundamentally different from the nine-in-one elections in 2018, as only one referendum question would be on the ballot, the DPP official said on condition of anonymity.
The 2018 vote was criticized for confusing voters and putting a heavy burden on polling staff, as 10 referendum items were put to a vote alongside the local elections.
A referendum last year calling for referendums to be held alongside elections was rejected. The DPP, arguing against the proposal by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT), had in part cited the logistical difficulties encountered during the 2018 elections.
However, voting on a single referendum question would not place too heavy a burden on voters and staff, the official said on Saturday.
If the constitutional amendment is not put to a vote alongside the local elections, it might not pass, given the high threshold, they added.
However, the official said the Central Election Commission is an independent agency and would make a decision without interference from the Presidential Office or the DPP.
The officials also questioned the feasibility of holding two major votes in quick succession, as the referendum must be held soon before or after the local elections if they are not held concurrently.
The KMT has opposed holding the referendum on Nov. 26, accusing the DPP of contradicting its stance on last year’s referendum.
The referendum should be held on a “more appropriate” date to give all four major parties a chance to promote it together, KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) said yesterday.
All parties agree on the issue and are sincerely pushing for its passage, Chu said.
He also urged against political calculations or attempts to discredit other parties, referencing barbs traded between the KMT and the DPP over the weekend about which party had first called for the amendment.
It has also already been decided — with strong support from the DPP — that referendums should not be held alongside elections, in part to minimize potential interference on electoral decisions, Chu added.
“Is this not a contradiction?” he said, calling on the DPP to explain its reversal after only three months.
However, KMT Legislator Chiang Wan-an (蔣萬安), who is seeking the party’s candidacy for Taipei mayor in November, struck a different tone, saying there are arguments either way.
The most important thing is to pass the amendment to give young people the right to participate in public affairs, he added.
New Taipei City Mayor Hou You-yi (侯友宜) of the KMT said the amendment should be passed as soon as possible now that a consensus has been reached.
Additional reporting by Lai Hsiao-tung
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