Shielding Taiwan’s elections from potential interference by China is such a concern for the self-governing democracy that it’s been willing for years to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of eligible voters to do so.

What bars so many from casting ballots is Taiwan’s insistence that all voting be done in person, a rule that’s been in place since the island of 23 million people first began direct elections almost three decades ago.

Among those kept from voting as a result are police officers and medical workers who can’t leave their posts. It also means Taiwanese living abroad must take time off from work and buy air tickets if they want to vote. Taiwan’s diaspora totaled some 2 million people, including children, in 2022, according to the island’s Overseas Community Affairs Council.