Saturday, February 14 is Valentine’s Day, and this year it will also be the date of the first referendum in Taiwan's democratic history to determine whether one of its popularly-elected legislators will lose his seat.
The Central Election Commission (CEC) announced on its official website Tuesday that the Fourth Electoral District of Taipei represented by Alex Tsai has a total of 299,527 registered voters. The procedures followed in conducting a referendum called for a minimum of 38,939 signatories to allow the recall petition for Tsai to move on to the next step. Members of the Appendectomy Project were able to attract 59,892 signatories, of whom 49,949 were found to be properly registered as voters and residents of the district, putting the final total nearly 10,000 more than the minimum required. The CEC thus confirmed that the referendum vote would take place on February 14.
In the February 14 vote, the threshold will be a 50% turnout meaning that one-half of all registered voters in the district cast a ballot. In addition, 50% of those voting must vote in favor of the petition. Finally, if the results fail to meet either of the two criteria the petition will be rejected, and the person who is the subject of the recall vote may not be targeted again for a minimum of one year.
Given the above requirements, with 299,527 registered voters eligible to cast ballots, turnout for the referendum must reach 149,764 people, and the number casting a vote to recall Tsai must be at least 74,882. Those figures could represent a formidable challenge, especially as the voting will take place on Valentine's Day, a holiday weekend when many people – young voters in particular – may be involved in various activities. Department stores and consumer goods stores will all have sales going on, and restaurants and clubs are certain to be packed for the noonday and evening meals.
In addition, the number of polling locations for the referendum is limited, with the CEC saying that only half of all polling stations open for the vote. Thus the Appendectomy Project once more has their work cut out for them. They have already taken the recall petition further than ever before, and now they face an uphill battle to get voters to turn out for the balloting. Meanwhile Alex Tsai will be watching to see if the voters of his district still love him on Valentine’s Day.