Most oppose voter registration penalty, poll finds

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 05 January, 2012, 12:00am


Nearly three out of five people oppose the government's proposal to penalise voters who fail to update their registered addresses within three to six months of moving home, a survey has found.

The results came as a probe by the Independent Commission Against Corruption and police continues into allegations of vote-rigging during November's district council elections.

The survey of 805 people, aged 18 and older, found 58.3 per cent opposed the idea of the penalty. It was conducted from December 19 to 23.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen says the government is leaning towards giving voters three to six months to update their information.

The measure is one of several proposals for plugging loopholes in the registration system following a spate of complaints and arrests.

Dr Victor Zheng Wan-tai, a research fellow at Chinese University's Hong Kong Institute of Asia-Pacific Studies, which conducted the survey, said the findings showed many had reservations about the proposal to make it an offence.

'Many people rent their homes, and may move once a year or once every two years when the leases expire. They may be quick to update their addresses with banks and public utilities, say for the delivery of water and electricity bills,' he said. 'But it may appear to them less important to update the addresses with the election office.'

Given the strong opposition shown in the findings, Zheng urged the government and political groups to further discuss the proposal before implementing it. 'I am worried that it may discourage people from registering as new voters, and some existing electors may choose to drop out.'

Chief electoral officer Li Pak-hong said a public consultation would begin soon.

Dr Ma Ngok, a political scientist at Chinese University, said: 'It is not fair to punish people for not updating their address with the electoral office. We are trying to punish cheaters, not people who forgot to update their address. Let's not punish the wrong people here.'

Police yesterday said officers were investigating 88 cases in connection with the district council polls, while the ICAC has received 527 complaints, 87 of which are related to voting offences at the election.

Meanwhile, pan-democrats said they expected about 20,000 people to cast ballots in a city-wide primary election to choose a chief executive candidate from the camp on Sunday. Preparatory committee member Dr Yeung Sum acknowledged publicity about the polling day had been inadequate. But he argued it was not appropriate to compare the publicity with the campaigning surrounding the elections or by-elections held by the government given the camp's financial and manpower constraints.