People isolating after a COVID-19 infection must not be deprived of their right to vote in Taiwan’s November 26 local elections, which will also ask voters to ratify a constitutional amendment on the voting age, the New Power Party (NPP) said Tuesday.
Speaking at a press conference, NPP Chairwoman Chen Jiau-hua said voting is a “basic right protected under the Constitution,” and noted that the Central Epidemic Command Centre’s (CECC) statistics show that 99.5 percent of COVID-19 infections are mild.
The government, therefore, should make every effort to allow people in isolation because of COVID-19 to participate in the elections, rather than taking away their rights “in the name of epidemic prevention,” she said.
Based on Taiwan’s current COVID-19 numbers and the seven-day self-isolation period, “hundreds of thousands” of people might be unable to cast a ballot on election day, equivalent to the population of a Keelung or Hualien, Legislator Claire Wang said.
Those numbers are especially important in this year’s elections, which include a question on ratifying a constitutional amendment to lower the voting age from 20 to 18, and must be passed with support from a majority of all eligible voters, she said.
Meanwhile, Legislator Chiu Hsien-chih said other countries that have held elections during the pandemic found ways to protect the rights of voters isolating after a COVID-19 infection or exposure.
In Korea, he said, a special time slot from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. was reserved for people with COVID-19 to vote, while in Japan, people with COVID-19 were allowed to request a mail-in ballot up to four days before the election, he said.
Taiwan, by contrast, failed to take any such actions ahead of the referendums it held in 2021, showing that the government was willing to “sacrifice the civil rights of people in isolation,” he said.
To prevent that from happening again this year, Chiu said, the NPP will submit a proposal to the Central Election Commission and the CECC laying out ways to protect the voting rights of people with COVID-19.
The party is also planning to introduce legislation to safeguard the rights of voters in such cases, and, if necessary, will consider seeking an interpretation from the Constitutional Court, Chiu said.