Taiwanese located outside their registered household areas will be able to vote by absentee ballot for the first time in the 2016 presidential elections, 20 years after Taiwan's first president was elected by direct popular vote.
Absentee voting can take the form of correspondence vote, advance polls, and casting ballots at a designated place. Initially, it will be available only for voters within the country. It is aimed at allowing voters greater convenience in exercising their democratic rights
But in Taiwan, deep distrust between the pan-blue and pan-green camps delayed the decision on absentee voting.
According to the United Daily News, a major newspaper in Taiwan, the Ministry of the Interior (MOI) and the Central Election Commission (CEC) have reached an agreement on implementing absentee voting in the seven-in-one local government elections in 2014.
Below are excerpts of the daily's report on the breakthrough in Taiwan's election history:
It has been confirmed that absentee voting will be adopted in the 2016 presidential election, after being "phased in" during the the legislative elections, starting with the offshore islands and aboriginal areas.
CEC Chairwoman Chang Po-ya said that under a Ministry of the Interior plan, there will no problem allowing absentee voting in the next presidential election because it involves a "single electoral district."
Legislative elections, on the other hand, involve several ballots (including party vote and aboriginal vote), therefore, absentee voting in that poll will be limited to Taiwan's offshore counties and aboriginal communities, she added.
The questions still remain of whether the presidential and legislative elections will be held together and if absentee voting will allowed.
MOI and CEC officials have agreed that they will not make a decision until 2016 on combining the presidential and legislative polls.
Huang Li-hsing, a director-level official at the MOI, said the ministry will respect whatever decision the CEC makes on absentee voting since it is the commission that will have to consider the feasibility of implementing such a step.
The two government agencies have initially decided to set up "concentrated" polling stations for absentee voting -- which means one in each county or city for young people, students and workers who are registered elsewhere.
Huang noted that the MOI plans to allow absentee voting only for people within the country, therefore, it will not yet be available for expats in China or other countries.
Voters must cast their ballots "in person, on the election day, at the designated polling stations," meaning advance polls are not yet being considered, she said.
To ensure the "safety" of the ballots, Taiwan is not considering correspondence voting either, according to the MOI official.
Under the MOI-CEC plan, military servicemen and women will have to cast their votes outside their bases as the government does not yet plan to set up polling stations inside military bases.
Prison inmates will not be included on the list of people eligible for absentee voting since there are no plans to set up polling stations inside penitentiary facilities. (June 26, 2012)
(By S.C. Chang)