The government has suggested raising the penalty for making false statements on voter registration forms, following concern over the accuracy of registration particulars.

In past elections, several cases of people using fraudulent addresses to gain voter status were uncovered.

Voter mailouts. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Mranieromn.

The government suggested an increased penalty in a document to lawmakers on Tuesday in order to enhance the deterrent effect. The document is ahead of a Panel on Constitutional Affairs meeting next week.

It said that the penalty for making false statements should be increased from a maximum fine of HK$5,000 and six months of imprisonment to a maximum fine of HK$10,000 and two years behind bars.

“The majority of views received during the public consultation were in support of increasing the penalties,” the document said. “We do not think that the proposal will affect the eagerness to register as electors among the general public.”

Address proof

The government also proposed a requirement whereby voters would have to submit proof of address when changing their registered addresses.

It said that in the 2015 voter registration cycle, the Registration and Electoral Office had received complaints from electors who claimed that they had never submitted any application form for new registrations, or updated registration particulars, and thus suspected that a third party had impersonated them and submitted such forms.

Similar cases were also found during the 2016 Legislative Council election.

If a voter’s address is changed, and the voter was not aware of the change before the official registers of electors was published, the voter will not be able to vote in their respective constituency.

Ballots. File Photo: GovHK.

The government said the majority of people involved in the public consultation supported the introduction of the proof of address requirement when submitting applications for new registrations as well. However, it was noted that such requirements may affect the desire of the public to register.

It proposes to implement the requirement for changes of address for existing voters first, and to gradually extend the requirement to cover new voter registrations, after the new measure has been implemented smoothly.

The address proof requirement will not be applied to public housing estate residents, as the government can cross check information with the Housing Department and the Hong Kong Housing Society.

The government also proposed advancing the statutory deadline for change of registration particulars by 30 days, to allow time for reminding voters who have applied for changes of addresses to submit proof before the deadline.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.