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白票與言論自由

2021/4/14 — 16:02

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【文:腸】

原則上而言,出發點必須是,「選擇投白票」是「[自由]行使選舉選擇權」的一部分,因此受到良心自由權和自由選舉權的保護[1]。

正如歐洲人權委員會在《X訴奧地利》一案中再次強調[2],選民不能被迫或「被要求埋沒良心,在正式選票上標明的兩個候選人中選擇一個」[3],而應該能夠「投白票或投廢票」。

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鑑於投白票或廢票是合法地行使政治權利,「鼓勵[選民]投下無效票可被視為一種競選活動......以影響選民的選擇」,實際上本身就是傳遞「一種政治訊息」;由此可見,這是在「對有關公投表達......政治觀點」[5]。

在這方面,歐洲人權法院認為,在該案中,為投票以外的任何其他目的使用選票,不一定、也沒有妨礙選舉的公平進行[6], 或以其他方式侵犯他人的權利[7]。

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言論自由對選舉特別重要,因此「在選舉前的一段時間內」,需要「允許各種意見和訊息自由傳播」 [8]。

毋庸置疑,普通法下必須採取相同做法[9]。

The starting point, as a matter of principle, must be that 'the option of leaving [one's] voting paper blank' is part of the '[free] exercise of electoral choice', and therefore protected both by the rights to freedom of conscience and to free elections.[1]

As the European Commission on Human Rights again emphasised in X v Austria,[2] the voter cannot be forced or 'obliged to silence the voice of his conscience and to choose one of the two candidates indicated on the official ballot',[3] but should be able 'either to file a blank ballot, or make his ballot invalid.'[4]

Given, therefore, that the act of handing in a blank or spoiled vote is a legitimate exercise of political rights, 'encouraging [the voters] to cast an invalid ballot could be regarded as a campaigning activity ... likely to influence voters’ choices', indeed as the conveyance of 'a political message itself'; it follows that it is an 'expression of ... political opinion on the referendum in question'.[5]

In this regard, the European Court of Human Rights has accepted that the use of the ballot papers for any other purpose than casting a vote does not necessarily, and did not in that case, impinge on the fair conduct of elections[6] or otherwise violate the rights of others.[7]

The particular importance of free speech to elections requires that 'in the period preceding an election that opinions and information of all kinds be permitted to circulate freely'.[8] It is axiomatic that, under the common law, the same approach must obtain.[9]

[1] X v Austria (1965) Yearbook VIII 168 (ECommHR) at 172-174.
[2] App No 4982/71 (ECommHR, 22 March 1972).
[3] ibid ('obligé de faire taire la voix de sa conscience et de choisir l'un des deux candidats indiqués sur le bulletin de vote officiel').
[4] ibid ('soit déposer un bulletin blanc, soit rendre son bulletin non valable').
[5] Magyar Kétfarkú Kutya Párt v Hungary (2020) 49 BHRC 411 (GC) at paras 89, 91.
[6] See Magyar Kétfarkú Kutya Párt v Hungary, App 201/17 (ECtHR, 4th Section, 23 January 2018) at para 42.
[7] See ibid at para 44.
[8] Magyar Kétfarkú Kutya Párt (GC) at para 100.
[9] See Crow v Johnson [2012] EWHC 1982 (QB) at paras 13-15 per Tugendhat J.

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