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July 24, 2017

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Taiwan needs an absentee voting system

But there is no excuse whatsoever for delaying the establishment of an absentee balloting system. For one thing, it has been delayed for too long. But even more harmful to the rule of law is that it is unconstitutional to deny the people the right of absentee voting. The Constitution gives the people "the right to election, recall, initiative and referendum." As a matter of fact, the Council of Grand Justices should be asked to rule that it is unconditional to continue to require all eligible voters to vote in places of their abode in Taiwan. We have to join, though belatedly, the rank of democracies around the world to let every eligible voter vote regardless of where he or she resides.

Let's briefly review how absentee voting is practiced abroad. One of the most popular methods is by postal voting. In the United Kingdom, where modern parliamentary democracy has evolved, postal votes are available on demand — no reason needs to be given. So it is in Germany. In Israel, absentee ballots are restricted to soldiers, prisoners, sailors, overseas diplomats, disabled persons and hospitalized people. As provided by the Overseas Absentee Voting Act, our close neighbor, the Philippines, allows overseas Filipino workers or other migrants to cast absentee ballots. Even India allows people on polling duty and serving in armed forces to vote in absentia through postal means. The Republic of Ireland allows postal votes to voters who cannot vote by reason of their occupation as well as students living away from home, people with disabilities, prisoners and long-term residents of hospitals, nursing homes and other similar institutions. In the United States, an absentee ballot is a ballot that the voter records and casts other than at a designated polling station; and typically, these ballots are mailed.

Taiwan shouldn't be behind these countries in the democratic practice of absentee voting. And, more importantly, all our voters residing abroad have to be enabled to cast their absentee ballots in the next presidential and legislative elections.

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