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Final registers of electors to be published tomorrow

     The final registers of electors for 2015 will be released tomorrow (September 25). Registered electors are eligible to vote in the District Council Ordinary Election in November.

     The Chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC), Mr Justice Barnabas Fung Wah, briefed the media on the voter registration system today (September 24). "Under the existing honest declaration system, the accuracy of the registered particulars hinges on three aspects, namely the applicants, the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) and public scrutiny. Each of them plays a dedicated role and fulfils different responsibilities in different stages. Members of the public are fully responsible for providing a true and accurate address for voter registration and updating their addresses in a timely manner to ensure the accuracy of the registered particulars," Mr Justice Fung said.

     "The existing honest declaration system adopts a lenient approach. In making applications for new registration or updating registered addresses, applicants are not required to submit the forms in person or produce documentary proof. Such an arrangement aims at encouraging and enabling eligible persons to register as voters, and to make it more convenient for voters to update their particulars," he said.

     Under the current system, electors do not have the legal obligation to inform the REO of their new addresses if they have moved. The REO implements checking measures to enhance the accuracy of the registered particulars as far as practicable.

     "The registration system is based on a mechanism of honest declaration, and there is no mandatory requirement for electors to update their new addresses with the REO in a timely manner. The REO implements checking measures to try to identify suspicious cases and assist electors in updating their addresses," Mr Justice Fung said.

     The REO publishes the provisional registers of electors and the omissions lists each year for public inspection. During the inspection period, the public may lodge objections against the entries on the provisional registers. Electors whose names are on the omissions lists may also lodge claims to request restoration of their voter registration.

     "In accordance with the statutory procedures, every objection or claim will be submitted to the Revising Officer, who is a judicial officer, for a ruling. The Revising Officer will conduct an open hearing for each objection. It is a solemn legal procedure set up with the purpose of complementing the lenient approach in processing applications for voter registration. Public scrutiny afforded by the process plays an important role in enabling the whole community to take part in verifying the voter registration particulars. Suspicious cases which could not be identified by the checking measures are submitted to the independent Revising Officer for an open and fair ruling," Mr Justice Fung said.

     "As revealed by the experience in the handling of objection cases in this cycle, the majority of the cases concern electors who have moved but did not update their addresses with the REO. Having processed cases involving a total of 1,451 voters, the Revising Officers ruled to remove the names of 299 voters and dismiss objections against 1,152 voters. Among the dismissed objections, 315 voters' addresses were updated upon approval by the Revising Officers. Most of the voters were omitted because investigation results showed that they no longer lived at their registered addresses, and the REO could not reach them and help them to update the addresses," he said.

     "Lodging claims and objections is a solemn procedure. The objector should in theory have collected the basic facts and attend the hearing to assist the Revising Officer in making a ruling. That said, existing legislation does not mandate the objector to submit evidence or attend the hearing. Judging from the large number of notices of objection with various grounds this year, it cannot be ruled out that some of the objectors have adopted a lower threshold of doubt in lodging objections. It is understandable that different parties in the community may adopt different thresholds of doubt. Whether the threshold is too lenient or strict is a matter of opinion. It is open for further deliberation in the community. People should appreciate that if the threshold is too low, those voters whose registration particulars are clearly without problems would unavoidably be inconvenienced. Indeed, it is necessary to reiterate the important principle that an eligible voter's right to vote is a basic right. Unless there is concrete evidence, the registration should not be revoked easily," he added.

     "I note that the Government will take into account the experience in this cycle and conduct reviews with the Legislative Council to consider whether the existing system needs adjustments. The REO will also study whether there is room for enhancing the checking measures and making use of more ways and channels to identify suspicious cases for follow-up," Mr Justice Fung said.

     He noted that any system has its merits and limitations. Ultimately, there are trade-offs to make. The society should adopt a rational attitude in considering the matter in order to find a right balance and reach a consensus. The EAC adopts an open attitude in the review process and is willing to hear different views.

Ends/Thursday, September 24, 2015
Issued at HKT 19:48


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