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Measures in place to safeguard security of ballot papers
     In response to media enquiries on the arrangement for collection of ballot papers of the 2016 Legislative Council General Election by polling staff, the Registration and Electoral Office (REO) issued the following statement yesterday (September 1):
     The arrangement for collection of ballot papers by polling staff for the forthcoming Legislative Council General Election is indeed the same as that for the previous public elections. The arrangement has been adopted for years and has all along been effective. Given the fact that all of the polling stations are temporarily borrowed premises where there is no area for safe custody of ballot papers and, also, no proper procedures can be put in place for polling staff to receive the materials on-site, it is difficult to deliver the ballot papers to polling stations before the polling day.
     In addition, as there is a large number of polling stations, the Presiding Officers (PRO), Deputy PROs and Assistant PROs would need to be arranged to collect some ballot papers, copies of register of electors and electoral materials for their respective polling stations in batches from the REO about one week before the polling day. They are required to bring along them when reporting to the polling stations for duty on the morning of the polling day to facilitate the opening of polling stations at 7.30am sharp for electors to vote.
     An established procedure is in place for polling staff to collect ballot papers. The quantity of ballot papers and their serial numbers for collection would be checked against the "summary of ballot paper stock allocated to individual polling station" of the REO, which needs to be signed by both the REO and polling staff for verification and each of them would be given a signed copy for record.
     The ballot papers will also be sealed in tamper proof plastic bags. Both the REO staff and the polling staff concerned are required to sign the seals attached to the plastic bags. The ballot papers will be put in a locked suitcase for safekeeping. Polling staff are required to ensure that all electoral materials are kept securely at all times and arrive at the polling stations with all the ballot papers by 6.45am on the polling day.
     Suitable security measures are in place at the REO premises where ballot papers are distributed. Security guards are hired and closed circuit televisions are installed. There is also a registration procedure to verify the identity of polling staff. Yesterday afternoon, as soon as it was found that someone had trespassed and was taking video at the premises, the staff immediately approached the person and subsequently reported the case to the police.
     On the polling day, two Polling Officers at each issuing desk will mainly be responsible for verifying the identity of electors and issuing ballot papers to them. Before the poll begins, the PRO will distribute the ballot papers to the Polling Officers manning the issuing desks. After receiving the ballot papers, the Polling Officers should check whether the ballot papers are intact and verify the quantity of ballot papers.
     About 15 minutes before the poll begins, the PRO will inform the candidates or their agents (election agents or polling agents) present the quantity of ballot papers kept by him or her and where the ballot papers are placed.
     In addition, every ballot box must undergo a sealing procedure before use. The PRO will lock and seal the back door of the ballot boxes. The candidates/agents present will be invited to witness the procedure, and two of them will sign the sealing certificate.
     Two Polling Officers/Polling Assistants will be assigned by the PRO to safeguard the three ballot boxes to ensure that they would not be tempered with and ballot papers are inserted by electors into the correct ballot boxes.
     Under the witness of the candidates/agents present, the PRO will lock and seal the flap of the ballot box with the aforementioned procedures when the ballot box is full or after the close of poll.
     According to the existing electoral laws, candidates/election agents/polling agents can witness the whole polling process, including issuance of ballot papers to electors, to forestall the occurrence of irregularities and to enhance transparency of the polling procedures.
Ends/Friday, September 2, 2016
Issued at HKT 0:46
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