Voters who fail to report move face penalties
Voters who fail to update their addresses with the election office within three months of moving house may be penalised, the constitutional affairs chief said yesterday.
The existing law does not make it an offence if a voter neglects to tell the Registration and Electoral Office of an address change.
Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen saw it as appropriate to cap the period at three months, considering it would be rare to see several elections within a year. The Legislative Council and district council elections were held only once every four years, he noted.
Tam said the government was tending towards setting a period of three months to six months.
'As the register of electors is annually renewed, it would be meaningless if we set a period of more than a year,' he said.
The proposed measure was part of efforts to plug loopholes in the voters' registration system, after 31 people were arrested over vote-rigging allegations at last month's district council elections.
Random checks that required 100,000 to 180,000 voters, or up to 5 per cent of total registered voters, to provide proof of abode would probably begin next month, Tam said.
He described the measures as quite controversial, saying 'there is some concern in certain sectors in the community', so the government would not implement them without full consultation.
He said the government might make adjustments after listening to lawmakers' views in a meeting of the Legco panel on constitutional affairs on Monday.
Asked if the measures could prevent future vote-rigging attempts, Tam said he believed they 'will provide the necessary deterrent effect for people who submit false information and cast their vote'.
As of Monday afternoon, the office had received complaints involving about 3,100 voters. One-third of them had been cleared of breaching any election rules.
Another one-third were sent letters demanding proof of residence. Tam said the office would, if it had suspicions, refer voters who did not respond to the letters to the police or the Independent Commission Against Corruption. He said that the rest of the complaints to the office were being investigated.
The number of registered voters in Hong Kong
- Each year, about 200,000 of them update their addresses