24 October 2016
There are concerns that proof-of-address requirement could prevent some voters from registering themselves. Photo: HKEJ
There are concerns that proof-of-address requirement could prevent some voters from registering themselves. Photo: HKEJ

Lawmakers differ on voter registration system revision proposals

With the government soliciting views on proposals to enhance the voter registration system, pro-establishment lawmakers and their pan-democratic colleagues have outlined divergent positions on the issue of mandatory provision of address proof for new voters.

At a meeting of the Legislative Council’s Panel on Constitutional Affairs on Monday, pan-democrats voiced support for requirement of address proof for new voter registrations, describing the proposal as “the lesser of two evils”, while the pro-establishment camp expressed reservations about the rule.

Civic Party’s Dennis Kwok said he agreed with the additional requirement for eligible voters, but asked if the government would also devise a special procedure to enable homeless citizens to register, Ming Pao Daily reported.

Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau backed the address proof proposal and sought tougher penalties on those who provide false personal information.

The penalties should be increased to a fine of HK$10,000 (US$1,290) and a two-year imprisonment, from the current level of HK$5,000 fine and six months jail term, she said.

But Starry Lee, chairwoman of the pro-Beijing Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong (DAB), voiced reservations about the proof of address requirement, saying the rule could prevent some voters from registering themselves.

Complementary work, such as spot-checks, should be in place before discussing the issue, Lee said.

DAB lawmaker Ip Kwok-him asked the government to be prudent before introducing the requirement on address information, given the fact that voting is not mandatory in Hong Kong.

In a response to different opinions, Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Raymond Tam said the proof of address proposal is aimed at preventing possible fraud in voter registrations.

If a voter is unable to provide proof of address, he can sign a declaration statement or declare through a commissioner for oaths, a lawyer or a Justice of the Peace, Tam said, adding that the service is provided for free in each district office of the Home Affairs Department.

While consultations on the proposals covering voter registration and checking arrangements, penalties on related offences, review of the objection mechanism, time limit for processing objections and address proofs are due to be over by Jan. 8, any revision would involve amendment of current laws.

The process is not expected to be completed by May 2, the last day of voter registration for the Legislative Council elections in 2016.

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