Citizens over 70 could be given priority to cast votes in the upcoming election for Hong Kong’s legislature, the electoral office has said. The proposal was among a raft of major amendments to the current electoral regulations – each has been put forward for public consultation by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC).
The commission held a press conference on Monday to propose new guidelines for September’s Legislative Council polls. In addition to prioritising elders, EAC Chair Barnabus Fung also suggested limiting how many people can view ballot counts.
Fung said the new guidelines were proposed in response to public opinions and with consideration to the challenges which surfaced in the previous election. Last November’s District Council race was almost axed amid social unrest.
Despite a total of 15 polling hours, he said most citizens tried to cast their votes during the first three hours which led to long queues at polling stations. In view of the long waiting times, some needy groups – including elders – were given seats. Voters were invited to cast their votes on a first-come-first-served basis nonetheless, said Fung.
According to official statistics, the 2019 District Council election turnout rate hit a historic high of 71.23 per cent, with a 17.43 per cent aggregate voter turnout by the third hour of voting.
The EAC also proposed that the capacity of public observation areas should be set for each venue, and observers’ full names and HKID numbers should be recorded upon admission.
“[D]isruptive acts took place in some counting stations where there were members of the public arguing, shouting, and even insulting electoral staff and interfering with the counting process,” the EAC said in a press release.
Fung added that many presiding officers at polling stations were surrounded by crowds during last November’s count, and they may have lacked knowledge of the electoral process: “[T]he EAC will explore the suggestion of video-recording the entire counting process in the counting station for the sake of maintaining order as well as for evidence, if necessary, as this is often done by the media and the public,” he said.
Pro-democracy lawmaker Au Nok-hin of the Democratic Party told the press that he thought the commission’s suggestions were politically-driven. “If certain social groups have the priority to vote then it’s against egalitarian principles of elections and has nothing to do with respecting elders,” he said.
A public consultation for the proposals will take place from Monday until April 7.
Fung said the Commission wished to ensure the elections will be conducted “in an open, fair and honest manner.”