David Lok Kai-hong (second from left), chairman of the Electoral Affairs Commission, displays during a Thursday news conference a sample envelope for poll cards issued by the Registration and Electoral Office. The officials reminded voters that the polls for the District Committees constituencies and the District Council geographical constituencies will take place at separate polling stations on Dec 10. (PHOTO / HKSAR GOVERNMENT)
Hong Kong will set up about 666 polling stations for the upcoming District Council Elections on Dec 10, with voting set to begin 8:30 am and last until 10:30 pm – one hour shorter than the last DC polls in 2019, according to the guidelines released by the Electoral Affairs Commission (EAC) on Thursday.
The district council reforms, part of the Hong Kong SAR government's efforts to strengthen administration, aim to depoliticize the councils and ensure they are under the control of patriots.
The Home Affairs Department issued guidelines to district care teams, stating that members who intend to run in the elections must immediately cease all work and cannot utilize any team resources for their campaigns
Following the reforms, the number of seats will be reduced slightly to 470 from the current 479. Apart from the 27 ex-officio members from New Territories rural committees, the remaining members will be appointed by the government or elected through indirect and direct methods, with a respective ratio of 4:4:2.
In other words, 88 members will be returned through geographic polls, while an additional 176 seats will be filled by members from Area Committees, District Crime Fighting Committees, and District Fire Safety Committees.
David Lok Kai-hong, chairman of the EAC, said the adjustment to the voting hours in the local constituencies, which will now span from 8:30 am to 10:30 pm, total 14 hours. This marks a reduction of one hour compared to the previous district elections but aligns with the voting schedule used during the Legislative Council election two years ago.
The newly established District Committees constituency (DCC) will have a voting period from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm, lasting for six hours, he added.
Of the polling stations, approximately 600 are ordinary polling stations, and there will be18 DCC polling stations and a maximum of 48 dedicated polling stations.
For the newly established District Committees constituency, 18 polling stations will be open for six hours starting at 8:30 am. Ballot counting for this constituency will only begin once the voting for the direct elections concludes at 10:30pm.
The EAC has extended the deadline for requiring candidates to submit their election advertisements and consent of support from one working day after the publication of the advertisements to three working days. Candidates running for the District Council constituency (DCC) are now allowed maximum election expenses of HK$100,000 ($12,776). On the other hand, candidates vying for the District Council geographical constituency will have varying limits, ranging from HK$512,400 to HK$951,600, depending on the size of the constituency.
The Home Affairs Department issued guidelines to district care teams, stating that members who intend to run in the elections must immediately cease all work and cannot utilize any team resources for their campaigns.
Lok expressed confidence in the existing guidelines and election legislation, saying he believed that they are sufficient. He said that the care teams are still a relatively new organization and that a review of their operations and impact on the election would be conducted. In future elections, further guidelines may be developed if deemed necessary.
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