New voting system introduced as Taiwan-based Filipinos go to polls

Filipinos living in Taiwan can vote in mid-term elections at three locations.

Filipinos living in Taiwan can vote in mid-term elections at three locations. (CNA photo)

A new voting system has been introduced to Philippines' representative offices in Taiwan for the Filipino mid-term elections starting Saturday, according to the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO).

Filipinos in Taiwan can vote for their local officials, district representatives for the lower house, and 12 nationally elected senators in a mid-term vote at Philippines representative offices in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung until May 13.

According to MECO, a new optical scan voting system will read paper ballots automatically and tally the results May 13.

Jocelyn Wu, a Filipino spouse voting for the second time in Taiwan, said Saturday that the new computerized system is "fast and accurate" and that her vote took only about five minutes.

However, Alvin Hernandez, a patent engineer voting for the third time, said the new system did not save him much time due to the large number of candidates and parties contesting the elections.

"We have 60 senatorial candidates, which is quite a lot," Hernandez said.

"Choosing from 60 candidates is crazy. I cannot remember their names," Hernandez told CNA, showing a sheet listing his choices and helping him find the candidates in the polling booth.

"For party lists, we also have to scan a list of around 100 parties to choose one," Hernandez added.

Meanwhile, asked if the change of MECO's Taipei office site from Zhongshan District to Neihu District will affect the voting rate, a MECO official in charge of coordinating the Taiwan-based Filipino elections said that the new office is located closer to public transportation and is therefore more accessible.

However, Wu said it took her longer to travel from Taoyuan to the new office and that the transfer from Taipei Main Station was inconvenient.

According to MECO, 6,000-8,000 Filipino nationals cast their ballots in Taiwan in the 2016 Philippine presidential election and there are about 40,000 Filipinos registered for overseas absentee voting in Taiwan this year.

Registered voters can cast their ballots from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., including weekends, at MECO offices during the period, apart from April 18-19, when polling booths will be closed in observance of a Philippine religious holiday, according to MECO.

Taiwan government numbers show that as of the end of 2018, there were 122,000 Filipino migrant workers in the country, making the Philippines the second-largest source of migrant workers in Taiwan, trailing only behind Vietnam. (By Joseph Yeh and Chi Jo-yao)