Wednesday, January 11, 2012

A plot against first-time voters?

For generational reasons, young voters tend to support the opposition DPP more than they do the KMT. And it is this group that faces extra hurdles in making it to the voting booth on Jan. 14

As many as 1.8 million Taiwanese, or close to 10 percent of the about 18 million eligible voters,* could cast their ballot for the first time in Saturday’s elections, a number that could be a deciding factor in what has been a neck-and-neck presidential race.

As a young democracy that held its first presidential election in 1996 after nearly half a century of authoritarian rule, the impressive voter turnout in major elections — which this year will once again be above 80 percent — is commendable, and highlights the commitment of Taiwanese to a system that became theirs after years of democratic struggle by their forefathers.

Sadly, it now appears that not all voters are equal.

Last year the Taiwanese government announced that, for the first time in the nation’s history, the presidential and legislative elections would be merged. As a consequence, the presidential election, which historically had been held on March 20, was moved up by more than two months, to January 14.

Although the authorities claimed the measure was adopted to cut expenses on expensive electoral campaigns — and no doubt holding the elections concurrently will achieve this aim — it also leaves some voters at a disadvantage. And this includes young voters.

My article, published today on the University of Nottingham's Ballots & Bullets Web site, continues here.

*The original numbers I gave in my piece were substantially lower than actual figures. I have fixed them here, and am hoping that Ballots & Bullets will be kind enough do so on their site as well. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the size of the population that is expected to reach voting age by election day is 1.8 million, not 760,000 as I originally stated in my article, making it about 10 percent of total voters, not 4.2 percent. If one reads the CEC figures carefully (which I did not), the number 760,000 represents the increase in registered voters from the election in 2008. That said, this figure does not take the mortality rate into account, which means that the number of first-time voters must be higher — the 760,000 plus the replacement for voters who died between 2008 and 2012.

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