CEC Chair comments

Today the chair of the Central Election Commission Lai Haomin 賴浩敏 answered questions in the legislature about the CEC’s plans to change the voting system.  As Interior Minister Jiang Yihua 江宜華 has previously said, Lai reiterated that the target date for implementing reforms is 2012, and the only thing they are planning to move forward with at this time is transfer voting.  (Transfer voting allows a voter to vote in a precinct other than the one his or her household registration is in.  The voter would have to apply to transfer his or her registration before the election, and would vote in person on election day just as everyone else does.)

However, Lai also said a couple of things that are different.  First, he suggested that transfer voting should only be used for the presidential election, since that has a single ballot nationwide.  DPP legislator Qiu Yingying 邱瑩瑩 suggested that it could also be used in a referendum, which also has the same ballot nationwide.  In fact, this comment came in the context of a discussion on whether presidential and legislative elections would be combined in the future, and Lai specifically stated that transfer voting should be used only in the presidential portion if the two were in fact combined.  (I’m not sure why the party list vote, which also has a single national ballot, should be excluded.)

I find this very encouraging.  My first priority is to ensure the integrity of the election, and then to make voting as easy as possible for as many people as possible.  I don’t care if this helps one party or another.  As I wrote in the first post on this blog, the only reason that I would oppose transfer voting is if it impinges on the secrecy of the ballot.  If a whole army unit is transfered as a unit to a particular precinct, it might be possible to hold that unit collectively responsible for their votes.  This is a lot easier if there are distinct elections, such as in a legislative election.  Imagine you are only of only four voters from Yunlin County 2nd district transfered to a particular precinct.  It would be pretty easy for an outside observer to figure out how you voted.  This is not as much of a problem with a presidential vote since there would be no way to distinguish the four voters who transfered in from the other voters in the precinct.   Thus, if transfer voting is only used when there is a single nationwide ballot, I see very little reason to oppose transfer voting.  (I also don’t expect it to have much of an impact.)

The other interesting thing came in response to a question from Jiang Xiaoyan 蔣孝嚴.  Jiang pointed out that the KMT allows members to vote by mail in its party chair election and urged that the CEC follow this example.  Lai responded that the CEC is still researching voting by mail and that it is almost necessarily the last stage of transfer voting, but he also noted that it remains to be seen if appropriate for the entire country, whether it can garner a public consensus, and whether it could be implemented efficiently.  In short, the CEC views transfer voting as a step toward voting by mail.  I think voting by mail would be a disaster.  If transfer voting can be considered independently of voting by mail, then it is a good idea.  Transfer voting won’t affect many people, but it is a small step.   If the two are linked, then transfer voting should be blocked.  The small step forward is not worth the huge leap backward.

(Note: The Central Election Commission is under the Interior Ministry.  In the past, the Interior Minister also served as the chair of the CEC, but this practice was discontinued in the mid-1990s.  Under the government reorganization act that passed in January 2010 and be implemented in Jan 2012, the CEC will become an independent body, similar to the Central Bank.  It will formally be under the Presidential Office, not the Executive Yuan.  I do not know how the members of the commission will be chosen or whether they will have terms longer or different from the president’s term.)

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