Competent Authority for the National Referendum: The Central Election Commission, Completes the Submission Phase for Referendum Proposals, Cites Lack of Legal Reservation to Receive More
As an independent authority, the Central Election Commission is committed to the fair, equal, and transparent management of the referendums. The Commission does not discriminate against the proposing persons or whether or not the content of the referendums supports or opposes the political views of the current administration (Constitution of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Article 7; Administrative Procedures Act, Article 6). The Commission will not under any circumstances, give preferential treatment to any referendum proposal, nor violate the principles of legal reservation in conducting the referendum procedures.
Huang Shih-hsiu, as the leading proposer has submitted to the CEC: “Do you agree that Paragraph 1 of Article 95 of the Electricity Act stating that “The nuclear-energy-based power-generating facilities shall wholly stop running by 2025” should be abolished?” In accordance with the Referendum Act (The Act) Article 13, Paragraph 1, the proposal has entered in the secondary phase of the proposal process: checking the list of joint signers with a total of 314,135 joint signatures. Until the end of this investigative process, the CEC cannot, by law, receive any more submission of proposers or joint signers. The commission states that Huang Shih-hsiu does not have the legal reservations to provide additional documentation and not to misinterpret the legal definitions stipulated by The Act. The commission has explained as such to Huang Shih-hsiu in person and have also issued a public announcement in order to clarify matters. However, to prevent Huang Shih-hsiu and the general public from misunderstanding the legal text and misrepresenting the issue, the CEC will clarify once again:
1. In submitting the list of joint signers. In accordance with the Referendum Act Article 13, Paragraph 1 on supplementary documentation. The law states: “After receiving the list of joint signers, if it is found on examination that the number of joint signers is less than that prescribed in Paragraph One of the preceding Paragraph, or the number of joint signers is inadequate after the joint signers without signature or seal are deleted, or the list is not in the format specified in Paragraph Three of the preceding Paragraph, the competent authority shall notify the leading proposer to supplement more proposers within 30 days; in case the specified number is still not reached after supplementation or the leading proposer does not supplement, the proposal shall be rejected; if it meets the relevant provisions, the competent authority shall request the government agencies of household registration to check it within 30 days”. The purpose for the raw count in the submission of joint signers is to review whether or not the initiative has sufficient support to pass the threshold of 281,745 joint signers (via the Referendum Act Article 12, Paragraph 1). If the required list of joint signatures does pass the threshold, the government agencies of household registration will commence the investigative checking process and does not require any additional supplementary signatures. This initial count whilst receiving the list of joint signers is to insure the fastest possible entry for referendum proposals into the secondary phase of the proposal process. Therefore, an issue of a “secondary submission of the list of joint signers” or “supplementary submission” does not exist. Only if the proposal fails to reach the required threshold, will the provisions of the Referendum Act permit a single opportunity to supplement their proposal with additional lists of joint signers.
2. Some people misinterpret the legal definition of the Act to mean: “Because the Referendum Act and the Enforcement Rules of the Referendum Act does not restrict to a single submission, more lists of joint signatures can be submitted as a safety measure to not meeting the threshold. And that the whole list of joint signers must be without error lest it be subjected to rejection” this misconception is in fact in direct violation with the Referendum Act’s Article 13 Paragraph 1. Referendum Act Article 12 Paragraph 3 guidelines state: “the list of proposers referred to in the preceding Paragraph shall be completed column by column in the specified format with the signature or seal, the ID card number and the permanent address affixed and bound into books by municipality, county, and township (city/district). The original and a copy of the said list of proposers shall be submitted to the competent authority”. In actuality, the laws guidelines do state that the gathered signatures must be submitted together. In addition, the Act is very clear in regards to the method in which the documentation is to be submitted and sorted, in order to ease the process in sending to the various government agencies of household registration. If a “secondary submission of the list of joint signers” or a “tertiary submission of the list of joint signers” …. or even an unlimited number of submissions, what would then be the purpose of stipulating that one do an initial sorting? Why do the sorting at all? Furthermore, no government agency can withstand an unlimited amount of submissions.
If the lead proposer wishes to submit a secondary submission of joint signatures or supplementary submission ahead of the completion of the checking process, due to:
a) Having reservations that his/her proposal will not meet the required threshold after completion of the checking process,
b) Not wanting to miss the opportunity to conduct his/her referendum in tandem with the national elections,
will invariably stall the checking procedures. The government agencies of household registration will then be unable to determine the deadline for the checking procedures. Our Commission must conduct these procedures in accordance with the law. The principle of legal reservations do not permit this action. If we, as Central Election Commission permit this action, the principles of rule of law will cease to exist.
3. Huang Shih-hsiu delivered his list of joint signers on September 6th, 2018. Totaling 314,135 signatures, in excess of the lowest required threshold stipulated by the Referendum Act Article 12 Paragraph 1: 281,745 signatures. Supplementary submission of documentation is not required.
Under the provisions of the Referendum Act Article 13, Paragraph 1, the phase for receiving the list of joint signers has already been completed. We have now entered into the checking process’ 30 day period. The Act does not authorize us to restart the phase of receiving submissions in Article 13 Paragraph 1. Therefore, Huang Shih-hsiu has no right to supplement his proposal with additional submissions and no right to restart the already completed receiving procedures or to enter a secondary phase of the checking procedure.
4. Another misconception that others have had is that “As long as the joint signers add their signatures to the list within the 6 month period stipulated by the Act, and if the provided number of joint signers exceeds the lowest threshold of required signatures, the CEC has no reason to not accept submissions. In other words, the issue of legal reservation lies not with the signature gathering process, but only with when the deadline for submissions are set. The CEC states September 14th, 2018 is the deadline for receiving of referendum proposal submissions. The date was only set for convenience in holding the referendums concurrently with the National Elections.”
The above statement misinterprets the division of labor between the leading proposer and CEC stipulated in Referendum Act Article 13, Paragraph 1. Once the leading proposer receives the model list of joint signers or an authentication code of the electronic joint signing system, he must diligently collect signatures over the stipulated threshold, within the 6 months prior to submitting the list to the CEC. If the signatures gathered is not enough, the Referendum Act Article 13 Paragraph 1 allows for a one time opportunity to supplement the list with additional documentation of joint signers. If the leading proposer is not confident that his gathered signatures will exceed the threshold by a sufficient margin, he/she should gather more joint signatures until he/she is confident that the list of joint signers will be enough to exceed the lawful requirements, prior final submission to the CEC.
At any time, within the stipulated 6 month period and prior to the end of the receiving procedures, can submit list documentation to the CEC. The CEC has no reason not to accept documentation within this time period and there is no issue of documentation rejection.
Currently, 10 Referendum Proposals submitted have been received by CEC. The Commission has received these submissions at all times during the day and has not refused any submission. 10 Referendum Proposals have already been submitted, received, counted, and sent to the government agencies of household registration for the checking phase. The phase for receiving submissions has already been completed, and therefore no referendum proposals are allowed to restart the submission phase once more.
5. At this time, the documentation for the list of joint signatures are at the various government agencies of household registration for verification. The allotted time for the governmental agencies to complete the checking procedures is 30 days. In accordance with the Referendum Act Article 13 Paragraph 3, if Huang Shih-hsiu’s submitted list of joint signatures completes the checking procedures, and reaches the threshold of 281,745 persons, the commission will announce the proposal of referendum is established, and assign a number to the referendum within 10 days. Only in the case of the proposal failing to reach the sufficient threshold of signatures will the Commission notify Huang Shih-hsiu to supplement his proposal within the allotted time period of 30 days. Only in circumstances satisfying the provisions of Referendum Acts Article 13 Paragraph 3, does Huang Shih-hsiu have the need to supplement his proposal.
Our commission must conduct the referendum proposal process in accordance with the law. Before the legal provisions of an article come into effect, we cannot impose our own interpretations beyond the legal definitions of the law, nor receive Huang Shih-hsiu’s preemptive submissions of supplementary documentation.
6. There are a total of 10 proposals undergoing the checking process at the various government agencies of household registration. If the Commission were to give Huang Shih-hsiu the privilege of conducting a secondary submission of the list of joint signers or a preemptive submission of supplementary documentation without legal reservations, preferential treatment of Huang Shih-hsiu’s proposal over the remaining 9 proposals will violate the Act’s principles of fair conduct. If the Commission were to give all 10 proposals secondary submissions or opportunities for preemptive supplementary documentation without legal reservations, we will not only violate the principles of legal reservations but also hinder the checking procedures undertaken by the government agencies of household registration. The government agencies will be unable to determine the 30 day checking periods for each proposal and their deadlines for submission.