Following is a question by the Hon Albert Ho Chun-yan and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (November 30):
It has been reported that in respect of the 2011 District Council Election completed not long ago, a large number of poll cards mailed by the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) were undeliverable, indicating that the registered residential addresses of the electors might be incorrect. Moreover, under section 16 of the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance (Cap. 554), it is a corrupt conduct for any person to vote at an election after having given materially false or misleading information to an electoral officer. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) with regard to the 2007 District Council Election, the 2008 Legislative Council Election and the 2011 District Council Election, of the respective numbers and percentages of poll cards mailed to registered electors which were undeliverable;
(b) whether it has looked into the reasons why the poll cards in (a) were undeliverable; if it has, of the details and follow-up actions taken; if not, the reasons for that;
(c) after the elections in 2007 and 2008, whether it had further verified the particulars of the electors concerned with regard to the undeliverable poll cards; if it had, of the number of electors who were verified to have given information that was materially false or misleading; if not, the reasons for that;
(d) of the numbers of members of the public who were prosecuted in each year since 2007 for having given voter registration particulars which were materially false or misleading and then voted at an election; among them the respective numbers of convicted persons and the penalties imposed;
(e) what procedures it has currently put in place during the process starting from voter registration to the official voting for verifying that the electors' particulars are correct; of the procedures that the authorities will follow and the time required in average to omit from the final register the electors whose registered residential addresses are incorrect; whether Hong Kong permanent residents residing on the Mainland on a long-term basis and do not have any local residential address are eligible to be registered as electors; and
(f) whether it has conducted a review on and considered improvements to the existing voter registration system, so as to ensure that the registered particulars of members of the public are correct; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
(a) For the 2007 District Council (DC) Election, the 2008 Legislative Council (LegCo) Election and the 2011 DC Election, the number and percentage of the poll cards and notices of uncontested election mailed to registered electors, which were returned to the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) are at Annex.
(b) For poll cards or notices of uncontested election which cannot be delivered to electors through their residential addresses recorded in the register of electors, the Hongkong Post will return them to the REO for follow-up. REO will call the electors concerned to enquire whether they still reside in the residential addresses recorded in the register. If the electors concerned have moved, REO will remind them that they have to update their residential addresses on or before the statutory deadline on updating registration particulars for the following year (August 29 for a DC election year or June 29 for a non-DC election year), or else their names will be omitted from the final register of electors to be compiled in that following year. If the electors concerned do not update their residential addresses or REO cannot contact them through telephone calls, REO will conduct the inquiry process according to section 7 of the Electoral Affairs Commission (Registration of Electors) (Legislative Council Geographical Constituencies) (District Council Constituencies) Regulation (Cap 541A). REO will send letters by registered mail to the electors concerned to ascertain whether they have moved from the residential addresses recorded in the current final register of electors. If no reply or application to update registered residential address is received by the deadline specified in the letters of inquiry, REO will put the registration particulars of these electors into the Omissions List for that following year for public inspection. If, before the statutory deadline on change of particulars, the electors concerned do not submit any claim or application for updating their residential address according to the law, their names will not be recorded in the final register of electors to be compiled for that following year.
(c) For poll cards and notices of uncontested election returned after the 2007 DC Election and the 2008 LegCo Election, REO has followed up according to the procedures mentioned in (b), including calling the electors concerned to enquire whether they still reside in the residential addresses recorded in the register, reminding them to update with REO their residential addresses and sending letters of inquiry to those electors who had not updated their residential addresses and to those electors who could not be contacted through telephone calls. For those electors who did not update their residential addresses on or before the statutory deadline on change of particulars, REO has already omitted their names from the relevant final register of electors.
(d) According to Section 16 of the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance (Cap 554), a person engages in corrupt conduct at an election if the person votes at the election after having given to the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) information that the person knew to be materially false or misleading. According to the information provided by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), from 2007 to the present, no members of public were prosecuted or convicted for engaging in the corrupt conduct mentioned above in respect of the DC Election, the LegCo Election, the Election Committee Subsector Elections or the Chief Executive Election.
(e) The Administration recognises the importance of maintaining the integrity of the elections to ensure that the elections are conducted fairly, openly and honestly. An eligible person has to sign on the application form to confirm that the residential address he provides is his only or principal residence in Hong Kong when he is filling in the form for Application for Voter Registration (Geographical Constituencies)/Report on Change of Residential Address. A reminder to the applicant is also printed on the first page of the form stating that a person who knowingly or recklessly makes any false or incorrect statement or gives information which is materially false or misleading commits an offence under the law. According to Section 22(1)(a) of the Electoral Affairs Commission (Registration of Electors) (Legislative Council Geographical Constituencies) (District Council Constituencies) Regulation (Cap 541A), he is liable to a Level 2 fine and imprisonment of six months.
When processing voter registration applications, REO will request the applicant to submit further information in case of doubt (e.g. incomplete address or an address suspected to be a commercial address). If the applicant cannot provide the information required, ERO can decide that he will not process the application further. If ERO suspects that the applicant may be providing a false residential address, ERO will refer the case to relevant law enforcement agencies for investigation. REO will issue a Confirmation Notice to the elector after processing his application. If there is any mistake in the registration particulars, an elector should inform REO as soon as possible for rectification.
According to existing legislation, ERO should publish a provisional and a final register of electors for public inspection. The public may lodge claim or objection to ERO against the entries in the register. Any person should report to REO on cases where an elector provides false registration particulars (including the address provided not being his only or principal residence in Hong Kong). REO will follow up the cases and, where necessary, refer the cases to the relevant law enforcement agencies for investigation and follow-up.
Furthermore, REO will conduct regular checks on addresses with seven or more registered electors. REO will ascertain whether the electors concerned reside in the residential addresses by making telephone enquiries and conducting the inquiry process.
According to section 28 of the LegCo Ordinance (Cap 542), a person is eligible to be registered as an elector in the register of geographical constituencies if, at the time of applying for registration, he ordinarily resides in Hong Kong; and that the residential address notified in the person's application for registration is the person's only or principal residence in Hong Kong. Whether a person is eligible for registration will depend on the merits of each case. ERO may omit from the final register of geographical constituencies the name of an elector if he is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the elector no longer ordinarily resides in Hong Kong or that the residential address last notified to ERO is no longer the elector's only or principal residence in Hong Kong.
(f) The Administration recognises the importance of maintaining an honest and fair voter registration system. At the same time, the voter registration system should facilitate the public to register, and to exercise the voting right they enjoy. There are currently appropriate arrangements for registered electors to update their registration particulars. The internal measures mentioned above are also in place to inquire and check the registration particulars. The Administration will review the existing arrangements, consider improvement measures, and deal with any illegal conduct seriously.
Ends/Wednesday, November 30, 2011