Saturday, February 18, 2012

Internet voting planned for March 23rd Hong Kong Civil Referendum

In the February 23, 2012 edition of the Economist, in the ”Banyan” column, reference is made to “a scheme by pollsters at the University of Hong Kong to hold a ‘virtual’ online election two days before the official ballot” for the Special Administrative Region’s Chief Executive. The binding, official election will be held on March 25th, between C.Y. Leung, Henry Tang, and the Democratic Party’s Albert Ho.

According to the Economist, “The electorate is a committee of 1,200 voters (out of a population of 7 million). Some are politicians; most are chosen by 'functional constituencies’ to represent sectoral interests. Their main job is to carry out China’s decision on who runs its special administrative region of Hong Kong.”

In order to gauge the views of a larger segment of the Hong Kong population, Robert Chung, Director of the Public Opinion Programme (POP) at the University of Hong Kong, is organizing a poll, open to all Hong Kong permanent resident 18 and older, to be called a “civil referendum.” The purpose of this exercise is three-fold, according to a February 8th press release from the group (“HKUPOP rolls out the “3.23 Civil Referendum Project”):

“1) to integrate with the results of public opinion surveys to form a comprehensive reference for the public and the election committee, 2) to construct a civil society by promoting civil participation, and 3) to demonstrate the electronic voting system.”

The press release puts this civil referendum in context:

“As an independent academic institution, POP has worked hard to develop a task-based electronic voting system to facilitate the general public and people from different sectors to express their will through civil referendum. POP plans to hold a ‘civil referendum’ on March 23, 2012 to echo with the fourth Chief Executive election to be held on March 25. POP hopes to let the general public vote via the civil referendum in order to express their support towards different candidates.”

According to the project’s website, at,

“’Although the civil referendum does not have legal status, and will not be carried out as strictly as official voting, if the civil referendum can be conducted fairly and independently, and the number of votes count up to five digits, then it will have very high reference value,’ says Robert Chung.”

As of February 18th, the project had raised 145,218 Hong Kong dollars (HKD), or $18,733.12, to carry out its work. The referendum’s website says that it is seeking at least HKD 500,000 in order to set up its online voting system and one brick-and-mortar polling station. According to the website:

• For HKD 500,000 ($64,500) raised, there will be an offsite voting system and 1 onsite polling station
• For HKD 600,000 ($77,400) raised, there will be up to 3 onsite polling stations
• For HKD 700,000 ($90,300) raised, there will be up to 5 onsite polling stations
• For HKD 800,000 ($103,200) raised, there will be an extra "School Mock Voting" system constructed
• If over HKD 800,000 is raised, the surplus will be used to develop online platforms and other civil referendum projects

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