Referendum on 4NPP:
Opportunity to Implement Absentee Balloting
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 8, 2013
Summary: The 4NPP referendum is an important democratic decision. No good reasons can be cited for opposition to absentee balloting via alternative balloting locations. Since the referendum on the 4NPP should be conducted through absentee balloting via alternative balloting locations, what reason can there be to oppose it during the presidential election? If absentee balloting can be implemented during the 4NPP referendum, perhaps we can established an alternative balloting locations system. This truly is a golden opportunity to advance the democratic process.
Full Text below:
The ruling and opposition parties are currently focused on the Number Four Nuclear Power Plant (4NPP) Referendum. Because the referendum law has a high threshold, by design, the anti-nuclear camp objects. Xinbei City Mayor Eric Chu has used the occasion to promote absentee balloting. Premier Jiang Yi -hua has gone even further. He argues that the presidential and vice-presidential elections are also excellent opportunities for the implementation of absentee balloting. We agree. Absentee balloting will probably increase voter turnout for the 4NPP referendum. We should use this as an opportunity to implement absentee balloting for the presidential election and other national level elections.
The referendum on the 4NPP is an golden opportunity for people to consider absentee balloting. The process of weighing the pros and cons of the referendum will increase voter turnout. Along with absentee balloting, the higher turnout will more accurately reflect public sentiment. Whatever the result of the referendum on the 4NPP is, it will have greater credibility and legitimacy. Since absentee balloting will have this effect on the 4NPP referendum, it will have the same effect on the presidential election.
In response to Eric Chu's proposal, DPP Chairman Su Tseng-chang said "The promotion of absentee balloting can be considered." But he opposed the application of absentee balloting to the election law or to presidential elections. He said the ruling party should not shift the focus from the referendum on the 4NPP.
Su Tseng-chang says he is "willing to consider" absentee balloting for the 4NPP referendum. He says "This facilitates the people exercising their rights as citizens." But if voting in the 4NPP referendum "facilitates the people exercising their rights as citizens," why refuse to apply it to other elections? Especially in the most straightforward kind of election of all -- presidential elections?
The DGBAS has investigated the issue. At least 15% of the people live away from their voting districts. The Ministry of the Interior has also made preliminary estimates. The 15% includes election officials, on duty police officers, military personnel, those who work away from home, and students. Altogether, they amount to 1.2 million people. Obviously facilitating 1.2 million people or 15% of the voters in the exercise of their voting rights during a referendum or presidential election, will have a decisive impact on the results. To uphold citizens' right to participate in the political process, and to accurately reflect public sentiment, clearly absentee balloting should be implemented.
The 4NPP referendum can become a valid referendum. The key is whether the one half threshold can be met, whether enough voters can be included via absentee balloting. There is near unanimous support between the ruling and opposition parties. The Ministry of the Interior should pick up the pace of deliberations. It must not miss this opportunity to implement absentee balloting for the very first time. As for extending absentee balloting to other elections, notwithstanding DPP concerns about transparency and ballot distribution procedures, these can all be overcome technically.
Absentee balloting is divided into mail in balloting, proxy balloting, advance balloting, designated balloting locations, and alternative balloting locations. The Democratic Progressive Party vehemently objects to mail in balloting originating abroad or with Taiwan businessmen on the Mainland. But the Ministry of the Interior made clear long ago that absentee balloting would not adopt mail in balloting. Instead, it would promote alternative balloting locations.
So-called alternative balloting locations accomodate voters who find polling day inconvenient or who live away from their voting districts. It enables voters to transfer to an alternative location prior to an election, enabling them to fully exercise their voting rights. Such a system allows students, office workers, or laborers, to transfer their balloting locations to nearby locales. They need not rush back to their voting districts. Su Tseng-chang paid lip service to "facilitating the peoples' exercise of their rights as citizens." This is not mail in balloting. It does not apply to overseas Chinese or Taiwan businessmen on the Mainland. This is not mail in balloting or proxy voting. It ensures that all absentee balloting is performed on Taiwan and in person.
Transferring to an alternative balloting location is feasible given the maturity of our electoral system, Risks can be minimized. This can uphold the constitutional provisions which stipulate "The people have the freedom to live and move about wherever they wish" and "The people have basic human rights, including election, recall, initiative, and referendum."
Absentee balloting is important to the full implementation of our constitutional rights. In principle they ought to apply in all elections, rather than be limited to "special cases" such as the 4NPP referendum. Of course, the "seven in one elections" at end of next year involves many issues and many voters. They are local level elections. Implementing absentee balloting for them may be too difficult. But a national referendum, or a presidential election involve the same constituencies. The balloting process is simple. They are entirely suited to the implementation of absentee balloting.
This newspaper's editorials have repeatedly called for preliminary steps toward the implementation of alternative balloting locations. These could be limited to central government elections for the president and legislators. The current electoral system lacks absentee balloting. It fails to uphold civil liberties and peoples' right to participate in the political process. Failure to ensure civil liberties and the peoples' right to participate in the political process is already a a constitutional violation. If absentee balloting can be implemented for the 4NPP referendum, it will upgrade Taiwan's democracy. After all, absentee balloting is standard practice in over 90% of the world's democracies.
The 4NPP referendum is an important democratic decision. No good reasons can be cited for opposition to absentee balloting via alternative balloting locations. Since the referendum on the 4NPP should be conducted through absentee balloting via alternative balloting locations, what reason can there be to oppose it during the presidential election? If absentee balloting can be implemented during the 4NPP referendum, perhaps we can established an alternative balloting locations system. This truly is a golden opportunity to advance the democratic process.
2013.03.08 03:53 am