Hong Kong will arrange priority queues for the elderly and pregnant women to cast their ballots in December’s newly-restricted legislative polls, the city’s election authorities announced on Monday. Meanwhile, a polling booth will be set up at a government Covid-19 quarantine centre.
More than 620 polling stations will be set up across the city on December 19, the Electoral Affairs Commission said, as Hong Kong holds its first “patriots-only” Legislative Council (LegCo) election. Presiding officers at each station will arrange a separate queue for voters who are pregnant, aged 70 or above or who cannot stand in line for a long time. Seats will also be provided for people who need to rest in the stations.
Hong Kong will be divided into 10 geographical constituencies and will elect a total of 20 pre-vetted legislators under a “double seats and single vote” system. Representatives from 28 special interest groups – or the functional constituencies – will return 30 seats, while 40 lawmakers will be chosen by the 1,500-member Election Committee, which will cast their votes in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.
On election day, voters may visit the voting stations between 8.30 a.m. and 10.30 p.m. – one hour less than in previous polling hours. Justice Barnabas Fung Wah, chairman of the EAC, said such a move will allow polling staff to have more time to conduct a final equipment and data network connection check.
Electors who are undergoing compulsory Covid-19 quarantine at Penny’s Bay will still be able to cast their votes, as the electoral office will set up a booth there. However, no special voting arrangement will be made for people in hotel quarantine.
December’s election will be Hong Kong’s first general election following a major electoral overhaul passed in May. Under the Beijing-steered revamp, which seeks to ensure only “patriots” rule the city, the ratio of directly elected seats in the legislature will fall to a historic low. Candidates are also subject to a multiple layers of national security vetting.
No members of the city’s leading Democratic Party have decided to run in the revamped polls, while a grassroots pro-democracy group has said their members were welcome to stand in the election. Other democrats have been jailed, are behind bars awaiting trial, have gone into self-exile or have quit politics.
The LegCo election guidelines issued on Monday did not mention plans to set up polling booths at the city’s border checkpoints, a proposal that the government said it was mulling over in a bid facilitate Hong Kong voters based in mainland China exercise their right to vote.
“The electors who intend to vote, but are currently not in Hong Kong, should take note of the quarantine measures for inbound travellers. They should plan their itinerary as early as possible and allow sufficient time for quarantine arrangements, such as returning to Hong Kong at least 21 days before the polling day,” Fung said.
The nomination period of the LegCo election will run from Saturday until November 12.