Part of a continuing series, Lighthouse: Dispatches on Taiwanese Democracywhere we explore how democracy has deepened its roots on this island nation.

Dispatch #2: People Cherish the Vote, Believing that Democratic Politics Can Still Make a Difference

On Election Day, Taiwanese from all walks of life line up to vote in orderly fashion: senior citizens, young urbanites, middle-aged housewives—even Buddhist nuns. People are excited to take part in elections relish the opportunity to fulfill their civic duty. For older Taiwanese who remember life under the KMT’s iron fist, it remains a proud moment to step up and cast a ballot.

trains_crammed_electionsTrains and buses were packed with riders on Election Day. Voters in Taiwan must return home to cast their ballot.

This year, 1.29 million new citizens became eligible to vote, reaching the legal voting age of 20 since the last election. Young people represent an important new constituency, as there is immense dissatisfaction with the ruling KMT’s tone-deaf policies. Rather than descending into apathy, Taiwanese youth are extremely motivated to show up at the ballot box. Turnout among those aged 20-29 was 74.5%, several points higher than the national trend of 66.27% among all voters.

As part of the electoral process, people must return to their home counties and districts to vote. In the 48 hours preceding the election, trains and buses throughout the island were packed. It helps that elections in Taiwan are held on a Saturday, not during the regular workweek—still an unfortunate practice in certain other industrialized democracies—which makes it easier for all working citizens to participate.

Taipei Main Station the night before the election.Passengers waiting in Taipei Main Station on the eve of the election.

Photos by Kevin Hsu.

Kevin Hsu

Kevin Fan Hsu is Lecturer in Urban Studies at Stanford University and co-founder of the Human Cities Initiative. He crafts open online courses and designs other educational experiences with a social mission at Skyship Design (