Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Democratic Progressive Party Has No Reason to Oppose Absentee Voting

The Democratic Progressive Party Has No Reason to Oppose Absentee Voting
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
February 10, 2010

The right to vote is one the most basic rights in a democracy. Absentee voting is democratic and progressive. The DPP's opposition to absentee voting is anti-democratic and anti-progressive.
The purpose of absentee voting is to increase political participation by giving citizens unable to return home the opportunity to exercise their voting rights. Transportation barriers and occupational factors deprive many members of the public the opportunity to vote. Absentee voting clears away such barriers, ensuring these citizens' their political rights. Such provisions were implemented in other democratic nations years ago. It is long overdue in the Republic of China. In theory, this ought to have unqualified bipartisan support. Who knew the the DPP would vehemently oppose it?

First, let us be clear. This measure, promoted by the Ministry of the Interior, is not about electronic voting. Nor does it apply to Taiwan businessmen living overseas or on the Chinese mainland. It applies only to Republic of China citizens living in the "Taiwan Region of the ROC." It does not apply to the vast numbers of young people studying or working abroad. It does not apply to the military, police and other special occupations. It does not apply to prison inmates. It originally included Taiwan businessmen living overseas or on mainland China. But because keeping track of overseas absentee ballots might be difficult, the Ministry of the Interior decided not to include Taiwan businessmen living overseas or on the Chinese mainland for the time being. Nevertheless the DPP still obstinately opposes absentee voting. It refuses to allow citizens the means to participate in politics. Its attitude is utterly incomprensible.

The Republic of China has undergone shocks from two ruling party changes. Yet the Blue vs. Green deadlock persists. Many people are disheartened. Recent voter turnouts are substantially lower. Allowing absentee voting would make political participation more convenient. It would help ensure everyones' right to express his political opinion. It is clearly necessary. During the Chen administration, Yu Shyi-kun and Premier Su Tseng-chang indicated their support for an absentee voting system. Who knew that as soon as the ruling party changed, the Green Camp would flip flop? Who knew that as soon as the DPP's political status changed, its political convictions would change?

One of the Democratic Progressive Party's objections for opposing absentee voting is that absentee voting may make manipulating the vote count easier. This objection has two aspects. On the one hand, the Taiwan Region of the ROC has held democratic elections for decades. It has developed a highly effective system for election monitoring. It is extremely difficult for anyone to engage in election fraud at the polling stations. The most appalling incidents of election fraud have occurred outside the polling stations. In recent years, all major incidents of election fraud were committed by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party. During the 2004 presidential election, we had the 3/19 Shooting Incident. The Chen regime issued an executive order forbidding members of the military to leave their barracks. As a result, many citizens were unable to return home to vote. This was an even more chilling means of election fraud than vote stealing. Members of the military prevented from voting were not merely denied the right to cast absentee ballots. They were deprived of their right to return to their voting districts in order to cast their ballots in person.

On the other hand, traditional means of election fraud are seldom seen. The new approach to election fraud is through administrative means. During the 2004 presidential election, the gap between the Chen/Lu ticket and the Lien/Soong ticket was less than 30,000 votes. The number of invalid ballots was as high as 337,000 votes. A quick check of previous presidential election results shows that in 1996 the number of invalid ballots was 117,000. In 2000 it was 122,000. In 2008 it was again only 117,000. In other words, in 2004 the number of invalid ballots was almost three times the average. How can the public not suspect election fraud?

Absentee voting is not electronic voting. It is merely a way for citizens already registered to vote, to to cast their ballots in advance, in accordance with law. One must still go to the polling station in person, with one's identity card and chop in order to cast one's ballot. The polling stations will be normal polling stations. The polling stations where military personnel cast their ballots will not be under the auspices of the military. The polling stations for police personnel will not be ad hoc polling stations specially created for the police. During questioning, DPP officials said there must be supervisory staff. Of course there will be supervisory staff! What sort of question is that?

Some basic concepts must be clarified. Making the exercise of one's voting rights more convenient has nothing whatsoever to do with political manipulation and election fraud. If politicians have personal integrity and self-restraint, there will be no 3/19 Shooting Incidents. There will be no incidents of political manipulation. If laws are strictly enforced, if voting is strictly monitored, it will be impossible to engage in election fraud. These are all matters for which the government and politicians must take responsibility. How can one invoke anti-election fraud measures as a pretext to oppose absentee voting? How can one oppose measures making it more convenient for citizens to exercise their voting rights?

Cross-Strait relations and the political climate on Taiwan are closely related. Hundreds of thousands of Taiwan businessmen and their family members living on the mainland have been denied the right to vote in elections, at all levels. This constitutes a major defect in the political system. Absentee voting is highly controversial. Its credibility will not be easy to establish. We do not think that electronic voting should be implemented precipitously. But what reason is there to oppose the implementation of absentee voting within the "Taiwan Region of the ROC" providing proper measures are taken to prevent election fraud?

Is the Democratic Progressive Party in fact anti-democratic and anti-progress?

2010.02.10 03:22 am










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