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

Dispatch #3: Citizens Pull Out All Stops to Monitor Elections and Ensure the Integrity of the Vote

This year saw an island-wide effort by civil society to monitor vote counts in each and every polling station. Independent volunteers, often in pairs or trios, would arrive, tally up all votes in parallel with the official count, and then rapidly report the results online.

Cell phones are banned inside voting booths when the polls are open, to prevent vote buying or intimidation. (This was a security measure also practiced during FIFA’s recent voting.) However, a new rule in Taiwan now allows people to use cameras and cellphones to film the vote-counting process, as a safeguard against fraud.

The KMT is known to have rigged past elections, so the public was on guard. “We want to make sure the Kuomintang doesn’t mess with the results,” a volunteer named Robert said. He and three other volunteers stayed for the full vote count, which spanned several hours into the night.

When election officials opened the ballot boxes, all vote tallies were double-checked by public observers.

Volunteers recorded ballots in parallel with the official vote count and then uploaded the findings to a public online database.

One story circulating among election monitors warned that if the power went out during the count, all the sealed ballot boxes would have vanished once the lights came back on. This was no mere joke, as fraudulent incidents of this nature allegedly took place in previous elections.

While humorously recounted, the levity was paired with volunteers’ dead seriousness in securing the integrity of the vote, so that Taiwanese voters could truly have their say in a free and fair election.

Vigilant citizens monitored the vote counting extremely closely by filming and completing parallel tallies.

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 (