Hong Kong’s electoral office said just 0.41 per cent of votes cast in the 2019 district elections were invalid

A graphic has been shared hundreds of times in multiple posts on Facebook, Weibo and in online forums which claim it shows almost 60 per cent of votes cast in the Hong Kong district council election were invalid. The claim is false; the Hong Kong Registration and Electoral Office (REO) said that 12,097 votes cast were invalid, which represents 0.41 per cent of the total vote.

The misleading graphic was published here in a post in a Hong Kong Facebook group called "Alliance in Support of our Police Force"  -- which has more than 50,000 members -- on November 26, 2019.

It was published two days after Hong Kong’s district council elections, which saw pro-democracy candidates win an overwhelming majority of 452 elected seats in the city’s 18 district councils.  Here are the official results.

Here is an AFP report about the elections, which were held during the sixth consecutive month of pro-democracy protests in the semi-autonomous territory.

Below is a screenshot of the misleading Facebook post:

Screenshot of the misleading Facebook post

The misleading graphic includes a banner at the top, which can be seen here on the homepage for the Hong Kong district elections website. 

The table purports to show the district council election’s voter turnout rate; votes cast and invalid votes for each of Hong Kong’s 18 districts. 

According to the table, 57 per cent of votes cast were invalid. 

Green text underneath the top logo bar in traditional Chinese characters translates to English as: “During the election this time, nearly 60 percent of the votes are invalid”. 

Another two lines of text in the upper middle side the image translate to English as: “Number of valid votes: 1,253,647 (43%)” and “Number of invalid votes: 1,690,195 (57%)”.

The Chinese-language caption alongside the post translates to English as: “Everyone what do you want to say after seeing those invalid votes?”

The same image was also included in multiple posts on Facebook here, here, here, here and here, Weibo here and here, and here from a Hong Kong forum site. This Facebook image was published with a claim that 70 per cent of the votes were invalid.

The claim is false; Hong Kong’s Registration and Electoral Office said on November 26, 2019 that 2,943,842 registered residents voted in the 2019 district council elections, of which 2,931,745 votes were valid.

This equates to 12,097 invalid votes, or 0.41 per cent of total votes cast.

Ricky Ho, Information Officer from Hong Kong's Registration and Electoral Office told AFP by email on December 2, 2019 about reasons behind uncounted ballot papers from registered voters.

"In general, ballot papers in ballot boxes are not counted for the following reasons: 

1)        Endorsed with the words "Tendered"; 
2)        Unmarked; 
3)        Not marked by the chop provided at the polling station; 
4)        Containing votes for more than one candidate; 
5)        With writing or mark by which the elector can possibly be identified; 
6)        Substantially mutilated; 
7)        Void for uncertainty. "

Ho added that details of the breakdown of the uncounted ballot papers for the election will be included in the election report, which will be submitted to the Chief Executive within the next three months. 

The full results of the election, including the exact number of votes received by each candidate, can be seen here.

A keyword search on the official election website led to this November 26, 2019 statement on the Hong Kong government website.

The statement reads in part: “There are online rumours that the voter turnout in an individual constituency is greater than the number of registered electors of the constituency, and the number of invalid ballot papers is about 1.6 million. 

“The Registration and Electoral Office stresses that the rumours are incorrect. Records show that total number of registered electors in 2019 is 4,132,977. A total of 2,943,842 registered electors had cast their votes in the election while the total number of votes received by all candidates is 2,931,745.

"The counting results of each constituency were posted at the counting stations, members of the public can also refer to the REO's press release (www.elections.gov.hk/dc2019/chi/press.html?157474355310) and the relevant figures listed on the election website (www.elections.gov.hk).”