Following is a question by the Hon Albert Chan and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Mr Raymond Tam, in the Legislative Council today (October 31):
Over the past few months, quite a number of members of public relayed to me that they had been deregistered from the register of electors without their knowledge, and that during the past few months, they had not received any letter from the Registration and Electoral Office requesting them to verify electors' information. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) of the number of complaints received by the authorities from electors in the past 12 months about deregistration from the register of electors without their knowledge;
(b) of the reasons for the electors being deregistered in the cases in (a); whether it has conducted any investigation to ascertain if the deregistration process involves any negligence or administrative errors on the part of government departments; if it has, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(c) whether the authorities will improve the existing policies and arrangements in order to avoid deregistration of electors without their knowledge; if they will, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Our consolidated reply to the member's questions is as follows:
In response to the concerns of the general public and the Members of the Legislative Council (LegCo) that some electors were suspected to have made false declaration of their residential addresses during the 2011 District Council (DC) Election, the Administration conducted a review of the existing voter registration system in late 2011 and proposed a number of improvement measures. Subsequently, the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) implemented a series of checking measures and increased the extent of checking with effect from January this year with a view to improving the accuracy of the voter registers. These measures included strengthening the random sample check, checking cases of any registered address with more than a certain number of electors or the number of surnames of electors exceeding a certain figure, cross data matching with the Housing Department and the Housing Society to confirm the registration details of households, taking follow-up actions in respect of returned election mails and complaint cases involving suspected false addresses in the 2011 DC Election. The above measures were reported to the LegCo before implementation and were supported by a large number of LegCo Members.
Section 24(2) of the Legislative Council Ordinance (Cap. 542) provides that a person is not, by virtue of being registered as an elector in an existing final register of geographical constituencies, entitled to be included as an elector in any subsequent register of geographical constituencies if the Electoral Registration Officer (ERO) is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the person no longer resides at the residential address recorded against the person's name in that existing register and that Officer does not know the person's new principal residential address (if any) in Hong Kong. Section 28(2) of the Ordinance also provides that the ERO may omit from the final register of geographical constituencies the name of an elector if he is satisfied on reasonable grounds that the residential address last notified to that Officer is no longer the elector's only or principal residence in Hong Kong.
Following the implementation of the above checking measures, if the REO had reason to suspect that certain registered addresses might not be the only or principal residence of some electors in accordance with the information obtained, the REO would, in compiling the 2012 provisional register, make inquiries into suspected cases in accordance with the relevant Electoral Affairs Commission Regulation, and such inquiry letters were sent by registered post to the persons from whom the inquiries were made.
The REO sent out about 296,000 inquiry letters in batches before April 30 this year. As at the end of May, the REO received responses from about 41,000 electors and about 25,000 electors requested the REO to update their addresses. The remaining 230,000 electors did not respond to the REO before the statutory deadline to confirm or update their registered addresses. For the electors who did not respond to the inquiries before the statutory deadline, the REO was satisfied on reasonable grounds that their registered addresses were no longer their only or principal residential addresses. Hence, the REO put their names and principal residential addresses on the omissions list published on June 15, 2012 in accordance with the statutory requirements.
To appeal to the electors to update their addresses in time, the REO enhanced its publicity campaign through various channels in May and June 2012. The specific measures included press releases, Announcements in the Public Interests on radio and television, newspaper advertisements, posters, LED displays in MTR compartments and messages on government websites. These enhanced measures aimed at reminding the public to check the provisional register and to note the arrangement for introducing an omissions list. The registered electors were also reminded to report any changes of residential addresses or other particulars to the REO on or before June 29, 2012. At the same time, the REO published a notice in accordance with the relevant regulation on June 15, 2012 that the provisional register and the omissions list would be available for public inspection between June 15 and 29, 2012 at the ERO's Office and the District Offices. Those who felt aggrieved that their names were shown on the omissions list could make a claim to the ERO before June 29, 2012 that he or she was entitled to be registered in the final register. The ERO then delivered the notices of claim made in accordance with the relevant regulation to the Revising Officer for consideration and ruling. With the approval of the Revising Officer, the claimants' names would be included in the final register published in July 2012. Such arrangements were covered by the major newspapers and media.
Other than the above publicity and public notice, the REO on June 14, 2012 sent reminders to the 230,000 electors who had been included in the omissions list to remind them to make a claim or update/confirm their addresses on or before June 29, 2012. Some 13,000 electors made a claim or updated/confirmed their registered addresses on or before June 29, 2012 and their names and addresses were included in the 2012 final register with the approval of the Revising Officer. The remaining 217,000 electors who did not respond to the REO before the statutory deadline were struck off from the final register in accordance with the relevant electoral legislation.
All in all, the REO made written inquiries to electors to confirm whether they lived at the registered addresses and struck off the electors from the final register in accordance with relevant electoral legislation. Apart from issuing public notice and arranging for public inspection of the provisional register and omissions list in accordance with the relevant electoral legislation, the REO also made repeated and extensive appeals through various channels to remind the electors concerned to respond or make a claim.
To maintain the accuracy of the electors' registered addresses in the voter registers, the REO will continue to implement checking measures in 2013 to confirm whether the registered addresses recorded are the electors' only or principal residential address in Hong Kong. Apart from issuing inquiry letters to the electors concerned in accordance with the checking results and electoral legislation, the REO will continue to enhance publicity measures to remind electors to whom the ERO has made inquiries to update/confirm their registered address so that they will not lose their eligibility for registration and voting rights. Besides, electors may call the hotline of the REO at 2891 1001 during office hours to enquire about their eligibility or to update their registered particulars.
Ends/Wednesday, October 31, 2012