Elections in Taiwan are conducted by the Central Election Commission (CEC), with the municipality, county, and city election commissions under its jurisdiction. All elections are processed based on “The Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election and Recall Law” and “The Public Officers Election and Recall Law”, and under the principles of universalism, fairness, directness and secrecy.
To ensure the impartiality and independence of election commissions, the commissioners at all levels shall be beyond party control, exercise their powers independently and discharge their responsibilities in accordance with the laws and serve a four-year term. The number of commissioners belonging to a given political party must not exceed one-third of the total.
The chairperson, vice-chairperson and nine commissioners of the CEC are nominated by the premier and confirmed by the Legislative Yuan. The commissioners, including a chairperson of every municipality, county and city election commission, are nominated by the CEC and appointed by the premier.
Elections in Taiwan can be classified into nine categories. The Presidential and Vice-Presidential Election and the Legislator Election are the two types held at the central level. Elections of Municipal Mayors, Municipal Councilors, Councilors of indigenous districts in municipalities, Chiefs of indigenous districts in municipalities, County Magistrates (City Mayors), County (City) Councilors, Township Chiefs, Township Councilors, and chiefs of village (borough) are held at the local level. Elected officials all serve a four-year term.
Generally, the election procedure in Taiwan consists of the activities listed in the following chart. Processing time varies according to the office being contested.
- Election announcement
- Candidate nomination and registration
- Lot-drawing to determine the order of candidates
- Campaign activities
- Public forums
- Display and public release of voter lists
- Election bulletin printing
- Election Day
- Electee list Announcement
- Awarding of election certificates
Characteristics of Election
Compilation of Voter Lists
Taiwan has a comprehensive household registration system. Compilation of voter lists is the statutory duty of government agents. With the exception of citizens residing overseas during the Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections, citizens do not have to register to vote. Unless incompetence has been declared, citizens, aged 20 or above, who have resided in their respective constituencies for a stipulated period, are entitled to vote. Their records are automatically filed by Household Registration Officers at least 20 days prior to Election Day. There are approximately eighteen million voters throughout the country, which is around three-fourths of the population.
The Right to Register for Candidacy
The president and vice-president candidates are nominated by their respective political party or endorsed by a mandatory number of citizens. Candidates for legislator-at-large (including overseas compatriots) require political party nomination. Otherwise, any citizen is free to register as a candidate.
Government Funded Campaign Activities
Activities sponsored by the government are
- Public Forums: Public forums are arranged by the election authorities to provide the opportunity for all candidates to deliver campaign-related speeches. Some forums are broadcasted on national TV stations. Especially in the election of district-elected legislators, municipal mayors, county magistrates (city mayors), election authorities may arrange public debates with the consensus of two-thirds of the candidates in an electoral district.
- Provision of Advertising Time Slots for Political Parties on TV: For the legislator-at-large (including overseas compatriots) seats of the legislator election, the candidates’ political party can submit ad campaign videos to the CEC. After review, the CEC will purchase ad time slots, fairly allocating time to each political party.
- Printing Election Bulletins: The bulletins contain the candidates’ resumes and campaign manifesto and are delivered to every household.
- Campaign Expenditure Subsidy: The government will subsidize a candidate and a political party’s campaign expenditures when they win a certain number of votes.
- Taxation Exemption: Under a specific amount, political donations made by any individual or company for any candidate, political party and all campaign expenditures are tax exempt.
- Besides using their own funds, election candidates may publicly raise money for their campaigns in accordance with the Political Contribution Act. Candidates may apply for tax exemptions for their own funds invested in the campaign.
- There are limits in terms of campaign spending for elections, but these limits only apply to campaign subsidies provided by the government and the amount of tax exemption candidates can apply for when using their own funds. Candidates’ total spending on election activities may thus exceed these limits.
- Public funding in elections includes subsidies for candidates’ election campaigns, as well as annual subsidies for political parties that have attained at least 5% of the vote. In addition, the government subsidizes the printing of election bulletins and national television broadcast time for candidates and their political parties to promote their political agenda.
Protection of Political Participation Rights for Minority Groups and Women
In order to ensure the right of political participation of minorities and women, a minimum number of representative seats in legislative bodies are reserved for these groups. For instance, in the legislator-at-large elections for the Legislative Yuan, at least half of each party’s elected candidates must be female. In elections for local representative bodies, out of every four elected officials in each electoral district, at least one must be female.
Fair and Open Scrutiny System
Approximately 14,000 polling stations are set up across the country. A total of 200,000 poll workers are usually on duty to serve the country. According to the electoral laws, election monitors must be present at every polling station. Monitors are dispatched as recommended by the candidates or political parties. For the Presidential and Vice-Presidential elections, each group of candidates is entitled to recommend one monitor per polling station. For the elections of the legislators, the municipal mayors and the county magistrates (city mayors), a monitor in each station can be requested by the political parties that have nominated candidates for that election and the number of votes received by the party totaled no less than 5% of the votes cast in the last legislator-at-large (including overseas compatriots) part of the legislator election. For the election of local public officials, the candidates may recommend monitors. The quota for the total number of monitors required is shared equally by the candidates.
Diversified Campaign Activities
In recent years, campaign activities in Taiwan have become quite diversified. Marketing strategies and advertising creativity are being introduced in campaigns. Campaign flags, caps, vests, billboards, vehicle body advertisements, flyers, posters, newspaper and TV advertisements, campaign rallies, and the internet are all mediums frequently used by candidates to canvass voters and to gain voter approval. Taiwan has many TV news channels and news agencies. Campaign news can be easily accessed by the public and used by voters to facilitate their decision process.
Facilitating Voters with Mental or Physical Disabilities
Election commissions are greatly concerned about how to make voting more convenient for voters with mental or physical disabilities and have taken the following measures to facilitate their voting processes: Recording audio versions of electoral bulletins, arranging sign language interpretation for electoral public forums, installing non-barrier polling station entrances, supporting blind voters by providing ballot slipcovers with Braille printing, and setting up wheelchair-accessible polling booths. Once handicapped voters enter a polling station, station staff actively assists them.
Efficient Polling and Vote Counting Process
Polling starts at 8 a.m. and closes at 4 p.m. on Election Day. Voters collect their paper ballots, which are colored according to the election type, mark their votes in polling booths and place them into the boxes. After the poll closes, all polling stations are rearranged for vote counting. To get a vote count, station staffs are required to take each ballot out of the box one by one consecutively, read the vote out loud, and display it to public witness, Seats for the witnesses must also be arranged. After counting at stations, managers make a written report of the results and post the report outside the station. Each copy must be signed by the station manager and be given to party or independent candidate representatives. Each poll manager is required to send a messenger to deliver the station results to the township (city or district) electoral operation centers so the results can be entered into a centralized computing system.
Rapid and Convenient Accessibility of Election Information
After the township (city or district) electoral operation centers receive the vote results from the polling stations, the data will be entered into a centralized computing system to compile and update statistics on the election results. The Counting and Information Center for Election provides the most up to date election results to the public. One could check up-to-date polling counts through the CEC’s website on election night, regardless of one’s current location. The final results are usually available about four hours after the polls close. To make it convenient for the candidates to verify the results, within ten days after the electee lists are publicly posted, election commissions will send a list of the vote count itemized by polling station to the candidates. Furthermore, for providing election-related information to the public, the CEC also utilizes its own website to release relevant election news and provide an election law and regulation online library service and an online database for past election results data.
Election supervision and litigation
Elections for President, Vice-President and other central government public offices are supervised by the Supreme Court Prosecutor’s Office, followed by prosecutors at every other level. Elections for local public offices are supervised by the relevant local prosecutor-general and those prosecutors directly under his office; they inspect election districts and deal with any criminal acts related to electoral affairs. To maintain justice, fairness and transparency in all aspects of the election process, an election supervision system has been established. Supervisory tasks are carried out by CEC members and members of local election supervision committees. Besides cooperating with the prosecutor’s office in criminal cases, supervisory teams are also responsible for cracking down on violations of election rules and issuing fines when necessary.
Courts are responsible for settling all litigation related to elections using a two-level system. Trials should be completed within six months. Under no circumstances shall trials be extended to ensure all parties’ rights. Two categories can be distinguished:
- Invalidation of election: If an election commission conducts an election illegally so that the result of the election is affected, prosecutors and candidates may, within 15 days from the day the list of elected officials is publicized, file a lawsuit to invalidate the election in relevant courts against the election commission.
- Invalidation of elected officials: If the number of votes gained by an elected candidate is false, or if an elected candidate has engaged in violent or corrupt behavior during the election, the election commission, prosecutors or other candidates in the same electoral district may, within 30 days from the day the list of elected officials is publicized, file a lawsuit in relevant courts against the elected candidate to invalidate his or her election victory.