Festive activities draw crowds

Report on EC elections released

The Electoral Affairs Commission today released an investigation report on the polling and counting arrangements of the 2021 Election Committee (EC) Subsector Ordinary Elections held on September 19 and offered recommendations for improvement.   The commission said a number of enhancement measures were adopted in the EC elections for the first time, including the electronic poll register (EPR) system and special queue arrangements.   These measures were implemented smoothly on polling day, laying a solid foundation for the adoption of such measures in future public elections.   However, the long queues at the polling stations on election day morning and the prolonged time taken for counting votes were far beyond expectations, the commission noted.   The investigation report pointed out that there were teething problems with the first use of the EPR system, which affected the subsequent counting process.   The long queues at the polling stations appeared mainly because staff at the ballot paper issuing desks were new to the system operation which slowed down the process, and it took time for them to explain the new arrangements to voters, replace those mistakenly marked ballot papers and verify the eligibility of people in the queues.   Additionally, a large proportion of voters had cast their votes in the morning, representing four times the voter turnout rate of the 2016 EC elections.   The report stated that the queues started to dissipate from noon after the Registration & Electoral Office (REO) had deployed additional manpower and the commission's Chairman had made an appeal to voters.   According to the report, the time taken for some polling stations to deliver ballot boxes and election documents to the central counting station was much longer than expected.   The delayed delivery at the Princess Alexandra Community Centre polling station was due to the repeated checking of the issued ballot papers when counting the voter turnout.   For the polling stations at Kowloon Park Sports Centre, Tuen Mun Town Hall and Sha Tin Town Hall, the staff's unfamiliarity with the use of new electronic ballot paper accounts, the failure to comply with the operational manual in completing the entire ballot paper issuing procedure, and the misunderstanding that ballot boxes could only be delivered after the handover of EPR equipment and documents to the contractor were the respective reasons for the delay.   The report also revealed that staff at the central counting station found that polling staff had made mistakes when filling in ballot paper accounts and sealing election documents and materials.   For prudence's sake, the polling staff concerned had to return to the central counting station to make corrections before the ballot boxes were unsealed, which took a long time.   During the ballot paper sorting and counting process, the report noted that the counting staff misplaced a ballot paper into the plastic box of another subsector and some of the ballot papers were jammed in the optical mark recognition machines.   The waiting time for handling questionable ballot papers also affected the counting process, it added.   Based on the findings of the investigation report, the commission had made eight recommendations for improvement.   They include rectifying the EPR system's errors, optimising the ballot paper issuing process, appropriately adding more polling stations and ballot paper issuing desks, and reviewing the process of receiving ballot boxes, vote count as well as manpower deployment.   The commission believes that the REO will conclude the experience of polling and counting arrangements in the EC elections and carefully study and explore how to implement the recommendations in the report to make comprehensive preparations for the upcoming Legislative Council General Election and the Chief Executive Election.