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UPDATED: March 22, 2010 NO. 12 MARCH 25, 2010
Voting Telepad Covers--Progress or Backsliding?

Only when people all say what they really want to say can we expect to find out the truth. But, in real life, it's not easy for some people to speak their minds openly. It is a solvable problem. If the conditions are made more convenient, most people are willing to express what they really want to say through their votes.

We don't need to worry about the personal morality of NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members. But even if they are all selfless and do not care about how others will see them voting for or against certain resolutions, it's still necessary to create conditions where they are able to fully express their real opinions. The voting is already made in secret ballot mode, but if all the voting process is exposed to the media, a secret ballot is not worthy of the name. The demand for covered voting telepads actually shows people's eagerness to hear different voices and opinions as expressed by votes.

Fu Dalin (www.qianlong.com): As occasions for NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members to discuss state affairs, their annual full sessions see opinions of various interest groups to clash with each other. Spokesmen for different groups have different standing points, so it's natural if they are divided on the same proposal or resolution.

Nevertheless, due to technical flaws or other problems in the voting process, some NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members may find it difficult or impossible to express freely the will they and the people they represent want to express. As a result, voting won't tell us the true situation.

To add covers to voting telepads will help voters to fully express their true opinions. After all, we can't deny that when NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members can see what each other is doing, they will feel the pressure of being watched and supervised and may refrain from voting according to their will.

Zheng Wen (Xinhua Daily Telegraph): If voting does not represent voters' wills or intentions, the result is somewhat questionable. Without covered voting telepads, voters might feel nervous and worried when they want to support or oppose certain resolutions, in case what they do is seen by others.

Today, on some voting occasions, there are private rooms for voters to write on vote slips. In such rooms, voters will not be disturbed and are able to independently and freely express their true opinions. This shows respect for voters' privacy.

Whether citizens enjoy adequate democratic rights is reflected in detailed arrangement. Covered voting telepads will effectively guarantee NPC deputies and CPPCC National Committee members to use their basic rights endorsed by the Constitution. They will be more willing to express their opinions. This seemingly small step actually is a big step toward democracy.

Retrogressive move

Guo Wenjing (Changjiang Daily): The proposed covers to voting telepads, instead of protecting voters' privacy, actually signify a waste of public funds and represent a backward step for democracy.

The two cornerstones of modern representative democracy are the secret ballot for ordinary electorates and representatives' disclosed vote. The former ensures ordinary electorates can more freely express their own ideas, and the latter can help electorates to better supervise representatives and to prevent voting tricks or abuse of electronic voting systems.

Superficially, without covered voting telepads, voters' original intentions might be affected. This is not the question. NPC deputies are responsible for electorates, not to those who sit around them. If they care so much about what others think about their decisions, they are not responsible or sincere enough.

Why are they, but not others, elected as NPC deputies? Because they make promises to the electorates that they will act in the interests of the electorates. It's a pity that because of the secret ballot practiced in the NPC sessions, ordinary electorates know nothing about how deputies have voted.

The key is to set up mechanisms to make NPC deputies responsible for the electorates, instead of carrying out so-called technical updates such as adding covers to voting telepads.

Wang Lin (The Beijing News): Anonymous voting actually runs foul of NPC deputies' obligations, because they do not vote for themselves at NPC sessions. More importantly, the deputies should refrain from becoming personally or emotionally involved, and vote based on the majority opinion of the electorates they represent. For instance, an official should not vote against legislation requiring public disclosure of officials' financial status just because he or she votes from an official's perspective, which only reflects officials' own opinions, not the public's opinion. In other words, NPC deputies should be responsible for the electorates and report clearly and accurately to the electorates how they have fulfilled their responsibilities at NPC sessions. The report should include all voting decisions. If the electorates are not informed of deputies' voting decisions, how can they supervise the deputies they have voted for?

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