To vote or not to vote – is the usual question on people’s mind when the city goes to the polls. What sets Sunday’s ballot apart is the unusual circumstances. For the first time, the Legislative Council elections are held amid a prolonged global pandemic. It is also the first litmus test of public sentiment since Beijing’s drastic revamp for a “patriots-only” race prompted an unprecedented boycott by opposition parties. So high are the stakes that the vote is bound to further shape Hong Kong’s political landscape and future development. Despite the all-out publicity drive by all sides, the atmosphere is anything but enthusiastic. This is not surprising though, given the epidemic, which already delayed the ballot from last year, is still fluctuating. The polling arrangements this time are also so different that many voters may feel confused, if not disengaged. Even though all 90 seats involve competition for the first time and the candidate line-up is said to have the broadest range of political representation, many of the 153 contestants remain unfamiliar to the public. Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor raised eyebrows earlier when she said voters might not bother to vote in times of good governance. “I think the turnout rate does not mean anything,” she said. Her narrative sits oddly with the heated appeal by Beijing and others and the initiatives to boost the votes, including free rides for public transport today. But observers say the concession may instead draw people out for fun rather than to polling stations. How many of the 4.47 million registered electors would come forward in a contest with only patriots sanctioned by the authorities is anybody’s guess. The pros and cons of voting have been well debated. Some say the candidates cannot represent them and want to express disapproval of the changes by voting with their feet. The recent arrests of people reposting appeals for a boycott in social media may have further fuelled political resistance. Not following Hong Kong’s Legco race? Here’s what you need to know Others see it as a civic duty to vote, especially if they endorse the rationale behind the overhaul. It remains to be seen whether the prevailing mood will result in a record low turnout as widely tipped. A survey by Chinese University showed more than 40 per cent of the respondents would definitely vote or might do so, while about one-third would snub it. Whether efforts to encourage people to vote will pay off is being closely watched by Beijing and the world. Turnout aside, it is crucial that the polls be held in a clean, fair and orderly manner. The sweeping changes and limited preparation time already saw some setbacks, such as voters given wrong polling information. Adding to the challenge is a new move to enable some 22,130 voters on the mainland to cast ballots at border checkpoints. A successful election can only be in the city’s best interest.