Voting loopholes to stay amid opposition to change

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 March, 2012, 12:00am

The government will not tighten voter registration rules, despite widespread claims of fraud in the district council elections in November.

Only one of six measures put forward to plug loopholes in the registration system will be implemented, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam Chi-yuen (pictured) told Legco members yesterday, after a public consultation found strong opposition to the plans.

Voters will not have to provide proof of address when registering or take their poll cards to the polling station, although electoral authorities are stepping up random checks.

The only approved proposal is to arrange the list of registered voters by address rather than name.

Critics say loopholes in the registration system in part fuelled claims of voter fraud. Earlier this month, seven Hongkongers living in Shenzhen were given suspended jail sentences for using a false address to vote in a district poll. At least 53 people have been arrested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption since it started an investigation last year into hundreds of complaints.

'We understand that some measures would actually create inconvenience to voters so we will not pursue them,' Tam said. 'We need to strike a balance, not to harm the voting rate.'

Three in five of those who responded to a public consultation exercise which ended earlier this month opposed the requirement to provide proof of address when registering to vote. Nearly three in four said showing their poll card when voting would be 'too troublesome', Tam said.

So far, 110,000 voters have been asked to provide proof of residence in random checks, or 3 per cent of the electorate, Tam said. Five hundred have asked to be removed from the register as they found the address requirement cumbersome.

A further 9,900 complaints about registered voters have been received by the Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau, which has asked 7,200 voters to provide proof of address.

In 24,000 other cases, people with different surnames were found to be living in one household. Some 21,000 of those voters have been asked to provide proof of residence.

Legislative Council member Audrey Eu Yuet-mee, from the Civic Party, accused the government of 'acting really slowly' in examining the fraud claims, and argued that random checks on 3 per cent of voters may not be enough.

'The random check rate should increase to 10 per cent of all voters,' Eu said.

She also urged the government to remind voters that they could be held responsible for providing false information.

Three pan-democratic candidates have filed petitions to have their results in the elections overturned after narrow defeats.

The complaints included claims that voters had registered demolished buildings as their homes and, in one case, that 13 adults with seven different surnames had given their address as one flat.


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