Posted by: Bruce Einhorn on February 28, 2008
As an American living in Hong Kong, I miss out on one of the most exciting parts of being a U.S. citizen – going to a polling place on Election Day and casting a vote in person. I’m eligible to vote by absentee ballot, of course, and I also can vote locally (Americans and many other foreigners who have lived in Hong Kong for more than seven years can take part in the Special Administrative Region’s local elections). But for me there’s no thrill to voting by mail. And as for Hong Kong elections, I’m embarrassed to admit that I haven’t even bothered to register, partially out of laziness and partially out of a sense that Hong Kong, with its unelected chief executive and strange legislature with some lawmakers elected by small groups of bankers or lawyers other “functional constituencies,” isn’t exactly a beacon of democracy.
That said, I did have a chance to vote normally, in a real U.S. election, in person - and I blew it. Michael DeGolyer, a professor at Hong Kong Baptist University and columnist in Hong Kong English daily The Standard, points out in a column today that Democrats Abroad had a primary in Hong Kong and around the world early this month. I didn’t vote, though. A big fan of Barack Obama, DeGolyeer did, and he writes that Obama won 75% of the vote in Hong Kong, better than the 72.6% he got in Asia-Pacific as a whole. That Asia-Pacific figure was better than the 65.6% that Obama got worldwide.
DeGolyer also writes that Hong Kong authorities could learn a thing or two from the Democrats Abroad primary. “Funny how the U.S. Democratic party has figured out how to let people vote securely from so many countries – even Antarctica – while our own Hong Kong government claims it cannot mast the difficulties of permitting absentee balloting from local residents confined to sick-beds, much less those traveling abroad during election day,” he says. “Stunningly, officials ban absentee voting here, supposedly because officials cannot figure out ways to secure casting and counting procedures….If Americans can solve the voting abroad problem, surely we can. And if litigious Americans can find a way to vote securely by fax, letter, e-mail or gathering in person at specified counting locations in a foreign country, then surely we can.”