11th December 2023 – (Hong Kong) The Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) extended polling hours yesterday until midnight for the 2023 District Council Ordinary Election, following a malfunction in the Electronic Poll Register system. Voters found themselves reverting to the traditional printed-form final register to cast their ballots.
The extension decision, taken after assessing the prevailing circumstances, was met with mixed reactions from political figures. Regina Ip, the Convenor of the Executive Council and a Legislative Council member, as well as the founder and chairperson of the New People’s Party, criticized the extension as futile. Ip expressed her concern regarding the middle-class voter base of her party, which is not organised in the same manner as other constituencies. She highlighted the reluctance of voters to return to the polls, especially given the inclement weather and the inconvenience caused.
Starry Lee, a member of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, pointed out that the disruption had affected all candidates and called for a review of why polling stations could not be restarted promptly. Michael Tien, convener of the Roundtable, and a pro-establishment figure echoed Lee’s concerns, emphasising the significant impact on middle-class supporters. Ronny Tong of the Civic Party, representing the non-establishment camp, suggested that their supporters typically vote after dinner, and the system’s failure could lead to a loss of votes.
The EAC’s decision to extend the voting hours came as a response to the system failure that left many voters unable to cast their votes initially. This move was aimed at ensuring that all voters had a chance to participate in the democratic process despite the technical difficulties. The government has been actively addressing the issue, yet the incident has sparked a broader debate about the robustness and reliability of the electronic systems in place for voting.
Ip, campaigning in Heng Fa Chuen for the New People’s Party candidates, expressed her extreme regret over the incident, stating that the failure of the electronic system, especially after significant financial investment in its promotion, was a waste of resources. She vowed to raise the issue in the Legislative Council, questioning the government’s preparedness and contingency planning.