War on voter fraud includes home truths

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 January, 2012, 12:00am
 

Checking voters' details against housing authorities' records and asking for proof of address are among the ideas being considered in a bid to plug loopholes in the election system and avoid a repeat of the accusations that marred last year's district council polls.

The Registration and Electoral Office will also work with the Buildings Department and the Ratings and Valuation Department to check on recently demolished and soon-to-be demolished buildings in an effort to identify the scale of the use of false addresses in voter registration.

The proposals were included in a consultation document on electoral registration issued yesterday by the Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs, Raymond Tam Chi-yuen (pictured).

But Tam's suggestion a month ago that voters could be fined for failing to update their addresses has not been included in the consultation. Instead, it proposes legal sanctions for anyone who votes after failing to provide their new address. But registered electors who do not plan to vote will not be penalised for failing to update their details.

Tam said people had complained that the measure was too harsh. 'Some citizens felt it would be too harsh if electors who forgot to report address changes, but had no plan to vote, were subject to fines or even imprisonment,' he said.

Other suggestions to be considered in the consultation, which starts today and runs until March 2, include requiring voters to provide proof of address when registering or reporting a change of address, listing all electors registered at the same address for public inspection, and requiring voters to present their polling cards before casting votes.

Another suggestion is for the deadline for voter registration to be brought forward, although the document said this idea would result in electoral rolls not being as up to date as possible. Registration for November's district elections ended in July.

The government is also considering unifying all election-related offences under the Elections (Corrupt and Illegal Conduct) Ordinance, to be investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Complaints about voters who provide false registration information are now covered under a separate ordinance.

November's polls were followed by a string of complaints, including that large numbers of voters were registered at the same flats and that voters had given addresses that did not exist or had been demolished.

At least 53 people have been arrested by the ICAC since it began investigating the claims.

Tam said 26 electoral office staff were following up on alleged vote-rigging cases affecting more than 7,000 voters that had been subject to complaints or reported by the media.

He said more than 2,000 letters had been sent to voters asking for proof of their registration details.

Similar number of cases were still being investigated but had not yet reached the stage of having letters sent out. The remaining complaints had been settled.

The polls, in which a record 1.2 million people voted, saw the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong win by a big margin.

3.56m

The number of registered voters who were eligible to vote in last November's district council elections.

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