|LCQ18: Special arrangements to facilitate electors' voting
Following is a question by the Hon Emily Lau Wai-hing and a written reply by the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, Mr Stephen Lam, in the Legislative Council today (November 26):
In reply to my question on the polling hours for elections in overseas countries on October 15, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs advised that the polling hours in Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the United States are shorter than those in Hong Kong, and these countries have special arrangements, such as advance polling and postal polling, to facilitate electors' voting. In this connection, will the Executive Authorities inform this Council:
(a) of the details of the arrangements adopted by the countries mentioned above to facilitate electors' voting;
(b) of an assessment of the pros and cons of the arrangements;
(c) whether they will consider adopting such arrangements; if so, when such arrangements will be adopted; if not, of the reasons for that; and
(d) whether they have studied other arrangements to facilitate electors' voting that are suitable for adoption in Hong Kong; if so, of the details of such arrangements; if not, the reasons for that.
(a) Some information on the special polling arrangements adopted by various overseas countries are at the Annex.
(b), (c) and (d) In Hong Kong, the issue of providing alternative arrangements to facilitate electors who could not turn up at designated polling stations to vote on polling day was discussed by the Bills Committee on Legislative Council (Amendment) Bill 1999. At that time, the Administration had proposed the introduction of advance polling. The proposal was subsequently withdrawn in view of Members' concern expressed during the scrutiny of the Bill that the premature release of exit poll results conducted on advance polling day might influence electors' choice on general polling day. Since then, there have been suggestions that the issue should be revisited. As we have explained to the Legislative Council Constitutional Affairs Panel during its meeting earlier this month, the issue can be considered in the forthcoming review on constitutional development after 2007, and the public will be consulted in the process.
Special polling arrangements adopted by various overseas countries
- A voter who is not in his polling district, but is still within his home State or Territory on polling day, may cast his vote at any polling station in that State or Territory.
- A voter who will not be in his home State or Territory on the polling day, or is unable to attend any polling station on that day, may cast his vote in advance at a special voting facility. Alternatively, he may cast his vote by post.
- An overseas voter may cast his vote by post or in person at an overseas polling station.
- In Canada, a voter can choose to vote on polling day or in advance of that day.
- In addition, a voter who is residing abroad or will be out of his polling district on polling day, or who does not wish to cast his vote in an ordinary or advance polling, may apply to cast a special ballot. The special ballot may be cast by post or in person at the office of the relevant returning officer. The voter is responsible for ensuring that his completed ballot is received by the appropriate authority before the close of polling.
- In Germany, a voter may, on application, cast his vote by post if any of the following circumstances applies -
(a) the voter will not be in his polling district on polling day on reasonable grounds;
(b) the voter has moved to another polling district, but has yet to be registered for voting in the new polling district; or
(c) the voter is ill or infirm and cannot travel to any polling station.
- A voter who is unable to travel to his designated polling station on polling day due to work, illness or other specified reasons may cast their votes in advance at facilities specially set up for the purpose. A voter with serious physical disabilities may cast his vote by post.
- Overseas voters may either vote at special polling facilities set up at diplomatic establishments abroad, or cast their votes by post.
- A voter may, on application, cast a special declaration vote for reasons such as being outside his polling district on polling day, being ill or infirm and cannot travel to any polling station, residing abroad, being prevented from voting on the polling day due to his religious practice, etc. A special declaration vote can be exercised in various ways, including voting in another district, advance polling, voting at overseas diplomatic establishments and postal/fax polling (only acceptable in the case of overseas voters).
- In the Netherlands, a voter who is unable to vote in person may, on application, cast his vote by proxy. No reason is required to be given for such an application.
- A voter who cannot attend his local polling station may, on application, arrange to vote elsewhere. A voter residing abroad may cast his vote by post.
The United States
- A voter who cannot vote on polling day may cast his vote by post or at a special facility in advance.
Ends/Wednesday, November 26, 2003