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SCMA answers media enquiry

     The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, attended a Legislative Council Panel on Constitutional Affairs meeting this afternoon (March 19). Following is the transcript of Mr Tam's response to a media enquiry:

Reporter: You must be quite disappointed when most of the ideas (of further improving the voter registration system) are not supported by the public.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs: I am not disappointed. Actually, what we have been consulting the public on are measures further to what we have introduced since January this year, namely that we have upgraded and strengthened our checking procedures. As you know, we have asked about 3 per cent of the voters to give us proof of authentic addresses. We have also compared our register with that of the Housing Department, etc, and that has proved to be quite effective so far. At the same time, we have issued 3.5 million letters to all voters - not only to inform them that they will have two votes (in the Legislative Council election), but also to ask them to return to us those letters that have been wrongly addressed to their home or if there is no such person as mentioned in the letters. We have so far already received 60,000 returned letters from this exercise, and therefore we believe that throughout the measures that we have introduced since January, our register should have been, if you like, cleansed to a great extent.

     For the six new measures that we have come up with, actually I have mentioned (at the panel meeting that) about half of them could be further pursued. As for the other half, one proposal was to carry poll cards to polling stations. I quite understand that this would actually create inconvenience to voters under current-day circumstances so we will not pursue that. On the introduction of new penalties, I fully understand the sentiment or the concern of the general public through the written submissions as well as through the radio phone-in programmes that I personally attended a few months ago. Therefore I think that it is not the right time to introduce such new penalties.

     On the submission of address proof at the same time of new registration and updated registration, I believe that we have to do a certain balance in this regard, especially when the new campaign for voter registration is coming soon from March 31. I believe that to balance this with the newly introduced measures by the Registration and Electoral Office - that is to have a sample check of the new applications that we will be receiving from new applicants - I think that is actually a quite good balance already of all interests involved.

     So I am not at all disappointed. In fact, I am quite confident that with all these strengthened measures since January, and with half of the new measures to come, I believe that our voter registration system is now in a quite healthy state.

(Please also refer to the Chinese portion of the transcript.)

Ends/Monday, March 19, 2012