The government released a consultation document on Thursday to collect public views about enhancing the voter registration system.
The consultation document contains a series of proposed measures drawn up by the government following a special Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs which discussed voter registration in late September 2015, in light of public concerns about potential voter registration fraud ahead of Hong Kong’s District Council elections.
As such, the government proposed five measures to enhance the current system. These include improving the methods by which details are checked and setting a deadline for changing registration particulars; raising the penalty for false representations in voter registration; reviewing the objection to voter registration cases; extending the time limit for processing objections to voter registration cases; and requiring applicants to submit proof of their address when registering to vote or changing particulars to facilitate identity verification.
Legislative Councillor Ip Kwok-him of The Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB) said that he is against the proof of address proposal, because this will lower the public’s motivation to register as voters.
“Voter registration is voluntary – it’s not the same as going to the bank, there is no direct need for proof of address to be provided. It has been proven in the past that it’s very difficult [to make voters register],” Stand News reported Ip as saying.
He also said that if there is a requirement for proof of address, citizens may not be interested in being voters, because their civic awareness is not that high. However, he was in support of reviewing the objection mechanism, as he said the system was abused by the Democratic Party this year. He agreed that objectors should be required to provide actual evidence before the court, rather than just raising an objection based on the register of electors.
Sin Chung-kai said that the proof of address requirement should be discussed, but there would be difficulties in the execution of this, Ming Pao reported. He also said that a balance should be struck between vote-rigging prevention and the lowering of the public’s motivation to register as voters.
The prelude to the District Council elections this year was plagued with incidents relating to voter registration. In September, over 100 voters were found to be registered to commercial properties, vacant buildings and bogus addresses. The court also had to review hundreds of complaints relating to fraudulent or bogus particulars that arose during the voter registration process – many of which were a result of the Registration and Electoral Office’s incorrect data input rather than election fraud. The court said that it was unreasonable to review such a huge volume of cases in the short period of time given.