LCQ1: 2016 Legislative Council General Election
Quite a number of the arrangements for the Legislative Council (LegCo) General Election just held have attracted various criticisms. Some electors who claimed that they were eligible to vote in the District Council (Second) Functional Constituency (DC (Second) FC) election were refused to be issued with the ballot papers for that FC election; the Registration and Electoral Office arranged polling staff to take home ballot papers, copies of register of electors and electoral materials about one week before the polling day for temporary custody, and bring them to the polling stations on the morning of the polling day; at some polling stations, the numbers of ballot papers issued and collected did not tally with each other; the polling hours of several polling stations had to be extended because a large number of electors were still queuing to cast their votes there at the scheduled polling end time of 10.30pm, and some electors even had to wait until 2.30am on the following day before they could vote. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the total number of polling stations which were set up at smaller premises because requests for borrowing premises had been rejected; whether it has reviewed if the arrangement for polling staff to keep custody of electoral materials for as long as one week is appropriate; if it has not reviewed, of the reasons for that; if it has reviewed and the outcome is in the negative, the improvement measures;
(2) as it is stipulated in the legislation that a person applying for registration as an elector for a geographical constituency is also regarded as having applied for registration as an elector for DC (Second) FC unless the person indicates otherwise, of the number of electors who, albeit not having indicated otherwise at the time of elector registration, were refused to be issued with the ballot papers for that FC election, and the reasons for that; and
(3) of the number of polling stations at which the numbers of ballot papers issued and collected did not tally with each other, and set out the relevant reasons by name of polling station; the number of polling stations of which the polling hours were extended, and set out the relevant reasons by name of polling station; the measures in place to prevent the recurrence of the aforesaid two situations?
The 2016 Legislative Council (LegCo) general election was held on September 4. The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) was responsible for conducting and supervising the election in accordance with the law, and all public officers responsible for the electoral affairs had, as in the past, handled matters relating to the election in strict accordance with the relevant legal provisions, with a view to ensuring that the election was held in an open, fair and honest manner. After each election, the EAC will conduct a comprehensive review of the various electoral arrangements, propose improvement measures and submit a report to the Chief Executive within three months of the conclusion of the election as required by the law. After the report is made public, we will listen to the views of Members on the arrangements of this general election at the LegCo Panel on Constitutional Affairs.
Having consulted the Registration and Electoral Office (REO), our reply to various parts of the question is as follows:
(1) In making preparations for the 2016 LegCo general election, the REO’s requests for venue were rejected by 89 schools or organisations, and thus had to look for alternate venues.
The arrangement for the Presiding Officers (PROs) / Deputy Presiding Officers / Assistant Presiding Officers (APROs) (PROs and their deputies) to collect and deliver some of the ballot papers before the polling day is indeed the same as that for the previous public elections, and has been adopted for years and has all along been effective. In view of the large number of polling stations (595 in total), the PROs and their deputies will collect some of the ballot papers, copies of registers of electors and electoral materials for their respective polling stations in batches starting from about one week before the polling day, and bring them along when reporting to the polling stations for duty in the early morning of the polling day to facilitate the opening of polling stations at 7.30am sharp for electors to cast their votes. When collecting the ballot papers, the PROs and their deputies had to undergo specified procedures, including checking the quantity and serial numbers of the ballot papers against the "Summary of ballot paper stock allocated to individual polling station" (the Summary) of the REO. Both the REO and polling staff concerned must sign on the Summary to confirm the quantity of ballot papers distributed, and each of them was given a signed copy of the Summary for record. All the ballot papers collected by the PRO and their deputies were sealed in bags and kept in locked suitcases. The PROs and their deputies were required to keep safe custody of the ballot papers and unpack them only before the poll started. Under the existing mechanism, the polling staff responsible for collecting ballot papers were at the rank of APRO or above, and were also of officer grade or above in the civil service structure. Moreover, about 15 minutes before the poll began, the PRO informed the candidate(s)/election agent(s)/polling agent(s) present of the quantity of ballot papers possessed by him/her and where the ballot papers were placed. Every ballot box must go through a sealing procedure before use. The candidates/agents present were invited to witness the procedure of locking and sealing the back door of the ballot boxes by the PRO, and two of them were invited to sign on the sealing certificate. According to the existing electoral legislation, candidates/election agents/polling agents can witness the whole polling process, including the checking of the unused ballot papers and issuance of ballot papers to electors, etc., so as to forestall the occurrence of irregularities and to enhance the transparency of the whole polling process.
(2) On the polling day of the 2016 LegCo general election, the EAC received complaints from a total of about 180 electors who claimed that they were unable to cast their votes in the District Council (second) functional constituency (DC (second) FC). The REO, after checking the relevant records, found that all the electors concerned had chosen not to be registered as an elector for the DC (second) FC when submitting their applications for voter registration or change of registration particulars during previous voter registration cycles. The REO thus acted in accordance with their wishes and did not include them in the 2016 final register for the DC (second) FC. As a result, these electors were only eligible to vote in the geographical constituencies.
(3) For the 2016 LegCo general election, the REO found that there were obvious discrepancies between the cumulative voter turnout figure and the number of actual ballot papers counted in five polling stations, namely the Sheung Tak Community Hall in Sai Kung, the Wan Tau Tong Neighbourhood Community Centre in Tai Po, CCC Kei Wai Primary School (Ma Wan) in Tsuen Wan, Sham Tseng Catholic Primary School in Tsuen Wan, and Hong Kong Teachers' Association Lee Heng Kwei Secondary School in Tai Po. The REO is conducting an investigation into the incident as instructed by the EAC. The findings of the investigation will be included in the election report.
While there were still electors queuing for ballot papers at some 200 polling stations at 10.35pm (i.e. five minutes after the end of the polling hours) on the polling day of the 2016 LegCo general election, voting procedures at most of these polling stations completed before 11pm. As at 11pm that night, there were a total of 38 polling stations with electors who had not completed the voting procedures. The names of the polling stations involved are set out in Annex. As the voter turnout was notably higher in this election, coupled with the fact that there were relatively more electors casting their votes at later hours on the polling day, the queues formed at some polling stations were longer than those in the past elections. Besides, some polling stations could not cope with all electors who came to vote within a short period of time due to their size and capacity, and resulted in longer waiting time for electors. The EAC is reviewing the arrangements of the polling stations and will propose improvement measures accordingly.
Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2016
Issued at HKT 16:45
Issued at HKT 16:45