electoral system

[written Nov. 27, 2015]

Taiwan uses several electoral systems to elect public officials. The rules are detailed in the the Presidential and Vice Presidential Election and Recall Act, the Civil Servants Election and Recall Act, and the Referendum Act. This is a summary of the systems in use at present for various offices.



All ROC citizens (ie: those holding an ROC ID card) aged twenty and older are eligible to vote. Registration is automatic. Voters must vote at the place of their household registration. Elections are always held on a Saturday, and general elections are always a national holiday. There are no provisions for early voting, absentee voting, or voting by mail or internet. In practice this means that a person who resides in Taipei (in the north) but whose household registration is in Yunlin (in the rural south) must travel back home to vote. Trains, buses, and freeways are often packed on the Friday evening and Saturday morning before the election. Many voters also return to Taiwan from China, the USA, or other foreign countries to vote.

All offices have a term of four years. There is a provision for the legislature to be dissolved early, but that provision has never been used and most doubt it ever will be.

In earlier years, different categories of elections were held on different cycles. This meant that voters might vote several times a year. For example, in the 52 months from December 1991 to March 1996, voters went to the polls eight times. In recent years, the trend has been to combine all national elections into one voting day and all local elections into another day. As a result, there are now only two general elections in each four year cycle. Turnout is around 75% in national elections and 70% in local elections.



The presidential ticket is directly elected by popular vote. There is only one round, and the winner is determined by the plurality rules, a system often known as first past the post.

Candidates must meet one of two qualifications. They must either recommended by a party which received at least 5% of the valid votes in the previous presidential or legislative election, or they must collect signatures numbering at least 1.5% of the total electorate in the previous legislative election.



Starting in 2008, the legislature has been elected using a mixed member majoritarian system. There are 113 seats in the legislature, including 73 geographically defined single seat districts, 6 seats in two districts reserved for indigenous peoples, and 34 party list seats. Voters have two ballots, one to select an individual candidate (in either the geographical single seat districts or the indigenous districts) and one to select a party list.

The 73 single seat districts are run according to first past the post rules. There is only one round, and the candidate with the most votes wins. Each of the 22 cities and counties is guaranteed at least one seat, and the remaining seats are apportioned according to population. Using 2012 data, the average district had 241,447 eligible voters. The largest had 368,840, and the smallest two had only 7,772 and 76,972 eligible voters.

There are six seats reserved for indigenous peoples. Both voters and candidates must have official status as an indigenous person to vote or run for these seats. Indigenous people cannot choose to vote in a geographical district, but they can choose to run in a geographical district. The six seats are divided into two districts, each with three seats. One is for people designated as lowland indigenous, and the other is for highland indigenous people. These two designations generally run along tribal lines, with the almost all Amis (the largest tribe) designated as lowland and almost all members of other tribes designated as highland. However, the match between tribe and highland or lowland is not perfect. In 2012, there were 171,548 eligible lowland indigenous voters, or 57,182 per seat. There were 183,398 highland indigenous voters, or 61,132 per seat. Thus, compared to voters for the regular geographic seats, indigenous voters are overrepresented by a factor of about 4.1.

The six seats for indigenous peoples are elected by the single non-transferable vote. Each voter can vote for one candidate. In each district, the three candidates with the highest numbers of votes are elected.

There are 34 party list seats. Each party presents a ranked list. If it wins X seats, the first X ranked candidates will be awarded those seats. Voters may only vote for a party; there is no provision for them to indicate a preference for a specific person on a list or to alter the ranking of the list.

To present a list, a party must meet at least one of four requirements. 1) The party received at least 2% of the valid votes in the most recent presidential election. 2) The party received at least 2% in one of the previous three legislative elections. 3) The party has at least five incumbent legislators. 4) The party registers at least 10 candidates for the district and/or indigenous seats in the current election.

Seats are apportioned by a largest remainders system. Only parties winning at least 5% of the party list votes are eligible to win seats. The quota is determined by dividing the total number of votes received by parties that passed the 5% threshold by the total number of list seats (34). A party wins a seat for each full quota is has, and the remaining seats are distributed to the parties with the largest remainders.

There is a gender requirement for the party list seats. At least 50% of the elected seats for each party must be female. This can mean that more than 50% of the total list seats must be held by women, depending on the number of parties that win seats and the number of seats each wins. For example, if one party wins nine seats and five other parties each win five seats, at least 20 of the 34 seats will go to women. If a party’s list does not have enough women in the first X spots, male candidates will be skipped over. For example, if Party A wins three seats but spots 1, 2, and 3 are all men, #1 will be elected but #2 and #3 will be passed over and the two highest ranked women will be elected instead.

There is no linkage between the nominal and list tiers. The two tiers are completely independent. There is also no provision for dual candidacy. A candidate may only register for one type of seat.



There are many names for the executives of the various local governments. There are municipal mayors, county-level city mayors, township-level city mayors, county magistrates, town mayors, village mayors, and neighborhood and village heads. All of these are elected by the same rules.

Mayors are elected by first past the post, needing only a simple majority. There is only one round of voting. Mayors are all elected to a four year term.



Each municipality, city, county, and township has an assembly. These range in size from five seats to 66 seats. The seats in most assemblies are divided into multiple electoral districts, usually with multiple seats in each district.

Seats are elected by the single non-transferable vote rule. Each voter may vote for one candidate. If there are X seats in the district, the X candidates with the most votes will be elected.

There is a reserved female seat provision. If the district has four to seven seats, at least one seat must be won by a women. If there are eight to 11 seats, at least two must be won by women. If there are 12 to 15, at least three must go to women, and so on. Districts with one to three seats have no gender requirements. If not enough women are among the top X vote winners, the women with the most votes will replace the Xth ranked (male) candidate. For example, if a district has 4 seats and the top 4 candidates are all men, the top three and the woman with the most votes will win seats. If there is only one woman in such a race, she automatically wins a seat.

Some districts are designated as indigenous seats. If there are enough indigenous peoples, highland indigenous and lowland indigenous may have separate districts. In these races, the voters and candidates must all have official indigenous status. Indigenous voters cannot choose to vote in a regular district, but indigenous candidates may choose to run in any district.


[I hate direct democracy. I refuse to write this section.]

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