Earlier this week, the government announced that it would launch a public consultation on the electoral arrangements for the District Council and Legislative Council elections.
Among the various options put forward by the administration is a proposal to shorten the opening hours of polling stations, including ending earlier, starting later, or both, on election day. Under the current practice, polling stations open between 7:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. on election day, among the longest in the world.
The government’s proposal immediately sparked opinions on its true motives among the pro-democracy and the pro-establishment camps.
In the last Legco election many voters queued up at polling stations just minutes before 10:30 p.m. in a desperate attempt to cast their votes before the precincts closed, according to a pan-democrat. As such, he couldn’t see any justification for the government to make any changes that would affect the convenience of Hong Kong citizens when they fulfill their civic duty.
The pan-democrat said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility that the government’s suggestion could be politically motivated.
In particular, he suspected that it could be intended as a way to prevent any initiative by the pro-democracy camp to coordinate its votes on election day to maximize its gains such as the “ThunderGo” campaign initiated by Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting last year.
However, he said shortening the voting hours by ending earlier is still unlikely to prevent the pro-democracy camp from coordinating votes on election day, since they would only mobilize voters to come out to vote just one to two hours before the poll ends. Therefore, it won’t undermine the effectiveness of their plan even if polling stations close earlier.
The government’s other proposal is to regulate the release and publication of exit poll results on election day. The pan-democrat said it is obviously directed against initiatives like “ThunderGo”.
The proposal could backfire on the government since the pro-establishment camp in fact relies more heavily on exit poll results to vote strategically on election day than democrats do.
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Nov. 15
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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