|TaiwanNEW ISSUE: A draft bill on absentee voting can be finalized speedily if party caucuses reach consensus, the legislative speaker said, otherwise it could delay the referendum
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus whip Lai Shyh-bao yesterday said his party planned to submit a draft of an absentee voting bill in two weeks’ time and wished to push it through the legislature by May.
The bill is being drafted by KMT Legislator Ting Shou-chung.
Ting said he would suggest that voters be allowed to vote by absentee ballots in various ways in presidential and vice presidential elections, as well as in national referendums.
There are various types of absentee voting, under which voters can vote in person in early voting, access an absentee ballot online, vote by mail or vote where they work or study rather than at their polling places, while dedicated polling stations will be open on polling day for prisoners or elderly voters in care centers, Ting said.
Ting said he would include all the types of absentee voting in his proposed draft, but a decision on which types to pursue is for all lawmakers to make.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has said that absentee ballots should be granted to eligible voters in the country and not be extended to Taiwanese living overseas.
In response to the DPP, Ting said the issue “should not be politically calculated.”
“Not all [China-based] Taiwanese businesspeople are KMT supporters,” he said.
Lai said that the party was willing to address the concerns of the DPP in deliberating the legislation.
“We can in the initial stage restrict applications for absentee voting to voters residing in Taiwan and extend the system to overseas citizens later on,” Lai said.
Meanwhile, Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng yesterday said there is a global trend toward allowing absentee voting in major elections and that the legislative branch would hold cross-party negotiations on the issue and seek consensus to complete the legislation process of the absentee voting system.
“We should promote absentee voting because it is a global trend … Legislating the absentee voting system will be speedy, if party caucuses reached a consensus on the issue,” he said.
If the party caucuses have different opinions on whether absentee voting should be included in a referendum on nuclear power, the legislation process could take longer and delay the referendum, he said.
New Taipei City Mayor Eric Chu, who on Monday proposed that the absentee voting system be adopted for the nuclear referendum, expressed confidence in the Legislative Yuan’s efficiency to facilitate the legislation process.
He brushed aside speculation that he raised the proposal to steal the spotlight from Premier Jiang Yi-huah, a rising political star in the KMT, and said both President Ma Ying-jeou and Jiang were in agreement with him that issues related to the power plant should be determined by the public.
“The referendum on the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant and an absentee voting system are issues that aim to solve disputes over the power plant. We all want to make the referendum a success and allow the public to have their say via the referendum,” he said.
According to Minister of the Interior Lee Hong-yuan, the date for the referendum on whether to complete the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant may be postponed if absentee voting is to be applied.
“To apply absentee voting [in the referendum], we need to either amend the Election and Recall Act for Public Servants, amend the Referendum Act or create special legislation for absentee voting in a referendum,” Lee said.
“It would go fast if we can have the law revisions done by this legislative session — which ends in May or June — and then we need another six months to prepare for the referendum, so it’s more likely that the referendum would be held by the end of the year at the earliest,” he added.
He added that his ministry would discuss details of the matter with the Executive Yuan and do its best to accomplish the mission.
By Shih Hsiu-chuan and Mo Yan-chih
07 March 2013
Premier Jiang Yi-huah, center, exchanges opinions on the nuclear issue with Taiwan Solidarity Union (TSU) legislators Lin Shih-chia, left, and Huang Wen-ling on a visit to the TSU party caucus yesterday. Photo: CNA