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Consultation Report on Enhancement of Voter Registration System published

     The Government today (January 21) published the Consultation Report on Enhancement of Voter Registration System, setting out the views received during the consultation exercise and the Government's position on the proposed measures after considering the views received.

     A spokesman for the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau (CMAB) said, "The views received are in general supportive of the measures proposed in the Consultation Document on Enhancement of Voter Registration System. We will work with the Registration and Electoral Office (REO), the Department of Justice and relevant government departments to follow them up."

     The spokesman added, "The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) has considered and is in general supportive of the measures proposed in the Consultation Document as well."

     In the light of the views collected during the public consultation exercise and with the support of the EAC, the following measures will be implemented as soon as possible in the 2016 voter registration (VR) cycle:

- The EAC will make amendments to the subsidiary legislation under the Electoral Affairs Commission Ordinance (Cap. 541) to advance the statutory deadline for change of registration particulars to the same statutory deadline for new registrations, and to change to use surface mail for all inquiries and notifications. The amendments will be gazetted tomorrow (January 22); and
- The REO will strengthen verification of address information with other government departments and other sources, increase the use of other means to communicate with electors, and enhance public education and publicity on VR.

     For the other measures, the Government will take them forward as follows:

- The majority of views received support increasing the penalties for the offence of making false statements in VR. The Government will carefully consider the appropriate level of penalties and put forward specific legislative proposals in due course;

- For the objection process, more views received support specifying in the law that the burden of proof rests on the objector and the objector should be required to appear at hearings. In addition, the majority of views received support uploading information on objection cases to the REO website and empowering the REO to handle indubitable objection cases. The Government will study carefully how to formulate the legislative and administrative arrangements to implement these measures, with a view to introducing them in due course;

- The majority of views received support extending the time limit for the REO to process objection cases and the Revising Officer to conduct hearings. However, noting that this measure might not be necessary after the other proposals have been implemented and having regard to the impact this measure would have on the various VR deadlines, the Government would consider the need or otherwise of this measure further; and

- The majority of views received support introducing a requirement for producing address proof by electors when submitting applications for new registration or change of registration particulars. However, views have also been received expressing concerns that such a requirement may become a serious disincentive to the public to register as electors. The Government will study the matter with care, including whether to introduce the address proof requirement in respect of change of registration particulars first, and put forward proposals in due course.

     As implementation of the above measures may involve amendments to the primary legislation of various pieces of electoral legislation and there are still many bills that remain to be scrutinised by the current-term Legislative Council (LegCo) in its remaining six months or so, the Government would introduce the necessary legislative proposals to give effect to the above measures in the next term of LegCo.

     The Consultation Report is available on the CMAB website (www.cmab.gov.hk).

     In the light of the public concerns expressed on matters relating to VR in July and August 2015, the Government embarked on a review of the existing VR system and issued the Consultation Document on November 26, 2015, to collect public views up to January 8, 2016. A total of 277 submissions from LegCo Members, political parties, organisations and members of the public have been received. The LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs was consulted at its meeting held on December 21, 2015.

Ends/Thursday, January 21, 2016
Issued at HKT 15:01