The number of invalid ballots cast in Sunday’s “patriots-only” legislative election was a post-handover record at 27,225 , or about two per cent of the total vote.

2021 LegCo Election vote counting
Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The figure was derived by comparing the total number of valid ballots with the number of votes cast in the geographical constituencies.

The 20 geographical seats in the new 90-member Legislative Council (LegCo) were the only ones elected by the general public. Half of LegCo’s seats were directly elected by the public before Beijing overhauled the city’s electoral system.

The official number for invalid ballots has not yet been released. In the previous six LegCo elections, invalid votes had accounted for between 0.57 to 1.52 per cent of the total.

But in the city’s first ever “patriots only” election an estimated 2.02 percent of voters cast invalid ballots. Turnout, meanwhie, was a record low 30.2 per cent.

Blank votes under spotlight

The issue came under the spotlight after self-exiled democrats, including former lawmaker Ted Hui and ex-district councillor Yau Man-chun, called in October for Hongkongers to cast blank votes as a form of protest against the electoral changes.

Under a new law passed in May, calls for people to cast invalid votes and efforts to obstruct others from voting became illegal.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Hui, Yau and five other democrats overseas. Locally, a total of 13 have been arrested and two charged. But the head of the anti-corruption commission clarified earlier this month that casting blank votes was not illegal.

2021 legco election: Police officers patrolled along Robinson Road in the Mid-levels as Chief Executive Carrie Lam casted her ballot at the Raimondi College poling station.
Police officers patrolled along Robinson Road in the Mid-levels as Chief Executive Carrie Lam cast her ballot at the Raimondi College poling station. Photo: Kyle Lam/HKFP.

The new electoral system has come in for strong criticism for excluding democrats. Candidates are screened with national security background checks to ensure they are “patriots”.

Traditional pro-democracy parties did not put up any candidates for the election. Most prominent pro-democracy figures are behind bars or in self-exile abroad, or have quit politics.

Beijing and Hong Kong authorities said the overhaul helped to secure the city’s stability and prosperity.

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