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HKFP Explainer: District Council election day

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Following on from our first explainer looking at what a district councillor is and what the election is actually for, here is some more handy insight into the upcoming election day on November 22.

district electionsWhat will candidates do?

Candidates can campaign up to and during the election day, but only at designated areas near the polling stations. The voting will take place between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m.

Candidates are expected to use every last bit of effort they have in order to convince voters on the day, and will not usually stay in one place on election day. Instead, they will move around their constituencies.

As it is the most important day for campaigning, things are expected to get more heated as the day goes on, especially during the late afternoon when candidates make their final push.

Can they call me or knock on my door?

Yes they can, and, technically, this does not require your consent.

If you live in public housing estates or in a Tong Lau – a Chinese style tenement building – you can expect candidates and their teams to visit every single flat in the building.

Candidates are unlikely to visit private buildings unless the association in charge of the building approves.

District Council voting confirmation letters.

District Council voting confirmation letters. Photo: Stand News.

Can I complain?

In the last election in 2011, the Electoral Affairs Commission received around 2,200 complaints, mainly related to election advertisements and campaigning activities.

The complaints came from both the public and candidates’ opponents. For example, a person filed a complaint against both candidates in a constituency in Tin Shui Wai as the campaigning teams were shouting at each other and blocking the entrance of a shop.

Also previously, at a constituency in San Po Kong, a candidate filed a complaint against his opponent under the suspicion he was bribing elderly people and instructing them to vote for him. There have also been fights in the past between members from different campaign teams, such as the scuffles which took place in a Mong Kok constituency in 2011.

How much can they spend?

In March, the government increased the subsidy and the election expenses limit for candidates running in the District Council election.

The election expense was increased from HK$53,800 to HK$63,100.

The subsidy for candidates was also increased from HK$12 to HK$14 per vote. Candidates will only receive this subsidy if they have received five percent or more of the valid votes in the election.

After the election, candidates are required to declare every single piece of promotion material used during the campaign, as well as salaries for their assistants, lunchboxes, clothing and so on.

The voting chop

The voting chop. Photo: Apple Daily.

How do I make a valid vote?

Voters should have received a letter from the government telling them which designated polling station to vote at.

They must use the chops at the polling station to stamp a “tick” on the ballot paper in the circle next to their selected candidate’s name. They should then fold the ballot paper in half once, inwards, before putting it into the ballot box.

Voters should not pick more than one candidate, or chop outside the designated boxes, unless they wish to submit an invalid or blank vote.

Usually, voters are only required to bring their Hong Kong Identity Card to vote.

During a by-election in 2010, some voters only realised their voter registrations were canceled when staff at the polling station checked their identity cards.

In August this year, a voter’s residential address was changed to his office address by an unknown individual using a forged signature. This meant he had become a registered voter in another district.

Voters can check their voter registration through the Registration and Electoral Office’s online system, before going to vote.

The Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong will be conducting exit polls on November 22.

The Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong will be conducting exit polls on November 22. Photo: Apple Daily and Wikicommons.

Should I answer exit polls?

It is up to voters whether or not they answer questions from exit poll staffers.

Usually, pro-democracy groups are unlikely to do large scale exit polls due to limited resources.

The Public Opinion Programme of the University of Hong Kong will be conducting exit polls as it has done for other elections.

The Hong Kong Research Association, the Association of Community in Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Society Monitor are the three other main groups conducting exit polls.

These are commonly considered to be affiliated with the pro-Beijing camp. Of the 363 constituencies where elections are being held, these three groups will conduct exit polls in 282 of them, reports Apple Daily. In the past, the groups have been accused of sending exit poll data to candidates to help them win the elections.

However, organisations conducting exit polls should not release the results to any candidate or any person or organisation which has publicly expressed support for any candidate, or any organisation with a member or members contesting in any constituency covered by the exit poll.

They should not make specific remarks or predictions on the performance of any individual candidate before the close of the poll, as this may affect electors’ voting intentions and have an impact on election results.

Can I go to the counting stations after the voting?

Most of the polling stations will turn into counting stations after voting ends. The public can go in to observe the counting process.

The stations will stick pages on the walls which are updated every 30 minutes with the latest results.

The election website will also be updated with the results as they come in.

Vote counting during a 2014 District Council by-election.

Vote counting during a 2014 District Council by-election. Photo: Gov HK.

What results should I look at?

There could be some interesting election outcomes this year given a number of certain factors:

Increase of voters – 2011

In various districts, “ghost voters” – voters registered to fictitious or questionable addresses – have recently been found. These include voters registered to a five-star hotel, to non-existent floors of buildings, derelict buildings and more.

The number of voters increased from 3,560,535 in the last 2011 election in to 3,693,942 this year. But after counting in new voters who have come of age, voters whose registrations were cancelled due to death or moving out, and “ghost voters,” most of the constituencies will see an increase of several hundred voters – or even a decrease in number of voters, depending on the area.

The number of voters in each constituency can be compared between 2011 and 2015 elections. If there has been a substantial increase in voter numbers in a constituency, it will have a big impact on the results.

The logos of District Councils. Photo: Wikicommons, Stand News and Gov HK.

The logos of District Councils. Photo: Wikicommons, Stand News and Gov HK.

For instance, the Olympic constituency in the Yau Tsim Mong district saw a 30 percent increase of voters from 2011, from 3,902 to 5,095. Lawmaker James To Kun-sun, who is a “super district councillor” there will be running against independent candidate Ko Hiu-wing, who is also a Chongqing city CPPCC member.


Increase of voters – 2014

However, the 2014 final register of electors is only available at the office of the Registration and Electoral Office in Wan Chai. The increase in voter registration in certain areas between 2014 and 2015 can be used to signify which constituencies to watch for.

In the Shek Yam constituency in the Kwai Tsing district, there was a 12 percent increase in voter numbers from last year, much higher than the usual three to five percent increase that occurs in constituencies of a similar size. The incumbent district councillor has questioned if the increase could be related to vote rigging activity.


Gerrymandering

There have also been constituency rearrangements by the government which some have considered to be “gerrymandering.”

In the 2011 election, Lam Kin-man of pro-democracy ADPL party lost by two votes in the King’s Park constituency, but he took the seat in a 2013 by-election.

In 2014, The constituency was separated into three constituencies, namely Yau Ma Tei North, Jordan North with the last segment merged with another constituency becoming East Tsim Sha Tsui & King’s Park.

Lam has chosen to run in the Yau Ma Tei North constituency this year against pro-Beijing party Federation of Trade Union member Man Yun-wa.


An elderly voter with suspected voting instruction on her hand.

An elderly voter with suspected voting instructions on her hand. Photo: Apple Daily.

‘Manipulation’

The pro-Beijing camp has also been criticised for organising voter support from elderly homes. They allegedly arrange tour buses for the elderly and instruct them who to vote for.

It is not illegal to drive voters to polling stations or ask them who to vote for, but distributing election advertisements and displaying propaganda material inside polling stations is prohibited.

It is also an offence to offer voters rewards to get them to vote for certain candidates.

If any such practice is noted, the voting result of the constituency could be overruled.

Who should I file a complaint to if I suspect someone is cheating?

You can file complaints up to 45 days after the election.

These can be filed with the Electoral Affairs Commission, the Registration and Electoral Office, the Police or the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Candidates can also file judicial reviews to overrule the result if they think any unlawful activities have come into play, which might range from the distribution of libelous posters to voters being prevented entry at poll stations.

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HKFP Explainer: District Council election day