In unprecedented scenes, thousands of Hongkongers voting in Sunday’s Legislative Council elections became stranded in long queues outside polling stations, and were unable to cast their ballots until the early hours of Monday morning.

More than 2.2 million people voted in the election – or a turnout rate of 58 per cent. The record breaking number is five per cent more than that of 2012’s Legislative Council election, which saw a turnout rate of 53.05 per cent. Over 1.98 million people also cast their votes in the District Council (second) constituency election, a turnout rate of 57 per cent.

See also: Record-high turnout as polls close

election 2016 queues
Queues in Tai Koo Shing on Hong Kong Island, Ngau Tau Kok and Laguna City in Kowloon, and Sheung Tak in the New Territories. Photo: StandNews.

While polls officially closed at 10:30pm, those who lined up before the deadline were allowed to cast their ballot. Many voters claimed to have waited several hours.

Vincent, 29, who voted at a polling station in Kowloon’s Laguna City, told HKFP that the queue stretched three times around the atrium of the local mall, then extended to a nearby bridge and a community centre.

“I went to vote at 9pm and finished at 10pm,” he said. “It was never like this in the 2012 [Legislative Council] or the 2015 [District Council] elections. I never had to wait at all.”

“Polling at the station probably finished at 11:30pm or 12pm,” he added.

A polling station in Lam Tin. Photo: Serena Leung
A polling station in Lam Tin. Photo: Serena Leung

At the Eastern District Junior Police Call Clubhouse in Taikoo Shing, Hong Kong Island, the last voters cast their ballots at 2:30am. TVB reported that local residents used to vote at two polling stations in previous elections, but they were only offered one station this year.

Voters in Taikoo Shing criticised the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) for “seriously underestimating” the number of people who turned up, reported RTHK.

Overall, however, EAC statistics show that the number of ordinary polling stations increased from 549 in the 2012 Legislative Council elections to 571 in 2016. A further 24 dedicated polling stations were set up in prisons and correctional institutions this year.

Elson Tong is a graduate of international relations and former investigations consultant. He has also written for Stand News.