Should We Implement Absentee Voting?
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
February 20, 2012
Summary: The current election system fails to allow absentee voting. This alone constitutes a breach of the constitution. The DPP, which casts itself as a "champion of human rights," has no excuse to oppose absentee voting. Alternate polling station voting has just been implemented for the central government level presidential and legislative elections. As long as one registers and specifies the polling station in advance, the technical aspects should be no problem. Absentee voting is necessary to uphold voter rights and enhance the quality of our democracy. Everything now depends on the DPP, on whether it insists on behaving as an obstacle to democracy.
Full Text below:
Ma Ying-jeou won the 2012 presidential election. The reasons were manifold. Everyone has his own take on why. Some say "The 1992 Consensus won the day." Lee Teng-hui objects to this interpretation. He blames the DPP's election defeat on the Ma administration. He accuses it of deliberately moving election day to the eve of the Spring Festival. He says this prevented many voters who work or study far from their voting districts from returning home to vote.
Actually the DPP's own post-election review said the fact that few voters returned home to vote was merely one of many reasons for its defeat. Also, who does not know that the most adamant opponent of absentee voting is the Green Camp itself?
In fact, the Green Camp has long considered voters working and studying far from their voting districts as the key to election outcomes. Two years ago, during the Three in One Municipal and County Elections, the DPP's slogan was "return home to vote, prosperity will appear." They asked young expatriates and those living far from their voting districts to return home and vote for the DPP.
On the one hand, the DPP encourages its supporters to return home to vote. On the other hand, it has long opposed absentee voting, which would enable voters to cast their ballots without returning in person to their voting districts. Every time the Ministry of the Interior attempts to promote absentee voting, the Green Camp opposes it, alleging that the KMT wants to use absentee voting to "implement political machine voting" or even "commit election fraud." Even Lee Teng-hui believes the main reason Tsai Ing-wen lost was that many voters were unable to return home to vote. Following the election, the Executive Yuan and the Ministry of the Interior urged the implmentation of absentee voting. Nevertheless the DPP remains obdurately opposed,
In general, absentee voting can be divided into five types: Mail-in voting. Proxy voting. Advance voting. Designated polling station voting. Alternate polling station voting. Mail-in voting is the most commonly used system in other countries. But many on Taiwan are concerned about possible abuses, making it difficult to implement near term. The Ministry of the Interior has indicated that initial implementation of absentee voting will not include the more controversial mail-in voting. Instead, it will give priority to Alternate polling station voting.
Alternate polling station voting would enable voters who find it difficult to return to their voting districts in person, to choose an alternative polling station in advance. The system would enable students, office workers, and laborers to cast their ballots at a polling station nearby, instead of in their own voting district. It would spare them the need to rush back to the voting district listed in their household registry. It would protect their precious and sacred right to vote.
The Green Camp professes concern that absentee voting would give rise to all manner of ills. Basically opposition political parties mistrust the party in power. But the voting system on Taiwan is long-established. These concerns can be overcome by narrowing the scope of the changes, and through attention to technical means. For example, for the presidential election, the electoral district is the entire nation. The ballots are the simplest of all. It would be the most suitable candidate for the initial implementation of absentee voting. The DPP deeply distrusts the Chinese diaspora and businessmen from Taiwan who do business on the Mainland. The ruling and opposition parties still have concerns over mail-in voting. Therefore the government will not prematurely implement mail-in voting. It will only implement alternative polling station voting. This will enable domestic voters who find it inconvenient to return home to their voting districts to transfer to a more convenient polling station nearby, and exercise their right to vote. From a practical point of view, given an increasingly trustworthy voting system, any problems with alternate polling station voting can be dealt with.
The DPP has long loved pontificating about human rights. The constitution stipulates that "The people have the freedom to reside or migrate" at their discretion. It stipulates that "The people have the basic human rights of election, recall, initiative and referendum." The DPP's opposition to absentee voting infringes the rights of voters who live abroad. It also violates the provisions of the Additional Articles of the Constitution, which stipulates that "The nation will ensure the political participation of citizens residing abroad."
The DGBAS has conducted surveys, At least 15% of the people who live in the Taiwan Region have their household registry in one place, but reside in another. This 15% of the electorate in unable to exercise its voting rights. The fact is, this 15% could have a decisive impact on election results. During the presidential election, for example, Tsai Ing-wen lost to Ma Ying-jeou by less than 6%. Filling this gap in the current voting system, which does not permit absentee voting, could well reverse election results. This could affect any election and any candidate. This being the case, refusal to implement absentee voting deprives voters of the right to vote. It is also a miscarriage of justice. Therefore, in order to enhance the quality of our democracy, and fully honor the Will of the People, how can we not implement absentee voting?
The current election system fails to allow absentee voting. This alone constitutes a breach of the constitution. The DPP, which casts itself as a "champion of human rights," has no excuse to oppose absentee voting. Alternate polling station voting has just been implemented for the central government level presidential and legislative elections. As long as one registers and specifies the polling station in advance, the technical aspects should be no problem. Absentee voting is necessary to uphold voter rights and enhance the quality of our democracy. Everything now depends on the DPP, on whether it insists on behaving as an obstacle to democracy.