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No plans for absentee voting for elections in Taiwan: Premier

03/12/2024 05:58 PM
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CNA file photo
CNA file photo

Taipei, March 12 (CNA) Opposition parties in Taiwan have been pushing for absentee voting after a presidential election that saw the second lowest turnout in history, but Premier Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said the government has no plans at present to adopt the practice.

In Taiwan, all voters with a few exceptions, must cast ballots on election day in the area in which their households are registered, meaning citizens living abroad or in a place other than where they are registered have to travel to vote.

There is no early voting, drop boxes, or mail-in voting.

Asked about absentee voting by assembled media before a legislative hearing, Chen acknowledged that voting is a citizen's right that is protected by the Constitution and other laws.

For absentee voting to become a reality, however, election systems would need to be strengthened, and further planning and research would be needed on how to ensure that votes are confidential and election results are accurate and fair, he said.

"The Cabinet does not have any plans on this at this time," he said.

Interior Minister Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) agreed, saying absentee voting involved many considerations. He contended that under existing circumstances, it was not suitable for regular elections but could be used for referendums, without explaining why.

In February, the Cabinet approved a draft bill to allow absentee voting for referendums for citizens unable or unwilling to return to the city or county in which they are registered. The measure would still not apply to citizens living overseas, however.

At the time, Central Election Committee Vice Chairperson Chen Chao-chien (陳朝建) said absentee voting should first be permitted for national referendums and that once stable procedures and social trust are established, that experience could be applied to elections.

Opposition Kuomintang (KMT) legislators had proposed that the measure be extended to presidential elections and include mail-in ballots and provisions for overseas citizens to vote.

Ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers questioned whether the KMT proposal may invite the risk of Beijing's interference in Taiwan's elections, given that many Taiwanese citizens live and work in China.

KMT Chairman Eric Chu (朱立倫) responded Tuesday that the DPP was simply rehashing its standard talking points while denying millions of citizens their right to vote.

He said that over 100 countries had absentee voting systems in place, including Japan, South Korea, the Phillipines, and even the United States, which is in a fierce rivalry with China.

KMT lawmaker Wang Hung-wei (王鴻薇) called on DPP lawmakers to face the peoples' needs, respect democratic procedures, and engage in discussions at the Legislature, rather than smearing people or accusing them of sympathizing with China.

Turnout in the Jan. 13 presidential election was 71.68 percent, the second lowest in history after the 66.27 percent turnout in 2016. The highest turnout ever for a presidential election came in 2000, at 82.69 percent, but it has steadily declined since then.

Also, only 61.22 percent of eligible voters turned out in nationwide elections for local offices in 2022, the lowest ever.

Though several factors have contributed to the trend, the hassle of flying back to Taiwan to vote or taking a train within Taiwan to vote has contributed.

(By Lin Ching-yin, Matt Yu, Wang Yang-yu and Wu Kuan-hsien)

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