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Legislative Council elections 2016

Keeping an accurate electoral roll is fundamental for authorities

Sudden disqualification of some voting groups has caused confusion and raised questions over electoral authority’s work

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 12:01am
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 August, 2016, 6:04pm

As voting in the Legislative Council polls draws near, the electoral authority has stirred controversy by disqualifying some arts groups from voting in a functional constituency. The watchdog may think it is just following the law to remove bodies that are no longer considered to be eligible voters, but the last-minute action has inevitably caused confusion.

Preparation for the electoral register began as early as April, with the final version published back in mid-July. So the 17 groups under the sports, performing arts, culture and publication sector, which forms one of the 35 functional constituency seats, are entitled to know why they have been struck off suddenly.

‘Can’t help think there might be some conspiracy’: 17 Hong Kong arts groups disqualified from voting in Legco polls

The contentious move apparently came after the Arts Development Council, the government-funded statutory body overseeing the city’s arts groups, had updated its own list of “specified organisations”, dropping those which are no longer active. Only those who are on the Art Development Council’s list of voters, or groups that have received its grants or sponsorship, are qualified to vote.

The watchdog said it only followed established procedures to deal with changes in electors’ status. Be that as it may, it raises queries over the watchdog’s previous efforts at keeping an accurate electoral register. The arts groups in question do not suddenly become dormant over the past few weeks. It has to be wondered whether other functional constituencies might have the same problems.

The confusion owes much to the electoral system. Unlike the geographical polls where each of the 3.78 million votes carries the same weight, the votes in the trade-based elections are heavily distorted by the uneven size of electorates, ranging from 125 in the finance industry to 88,185 in the education sector. Not only is the ballot restricted to some 240,000 people, it is further compounded by a mix of individual and corporate votes. Irregularities are not uncommon. The authority should make better efforts at an early stage to ensure the register is up to date.