Go to contents

New Absentee Voting Guidelines Could Impact Upcoming Elections

New Absentee Voting Guidelines Could Impact Upcoming Elections

Posted October. 12, 2005 07:04,   


A day before the deadline for absentee ballot applications for the October 26 National Assembly re-elections, a voter gets a call from a close acquaintance who supports a particular candidate. The acquaintance asks if the voter will vote, but the voter replies that he or she is unable to make the election due to other plans.

Then the acquaintance explains the absentee ballot voting process while showing the voter the absentee ballot application form. “Just fill in your address (as on the residence registration certificate), current place of residence (to receive the mail), phone number, and name on the application, then sign and seal it before putting it in the mailbox. Once the ballot is delivered, cast your vote with a pen lid and just put it in the mail to finish the process.”

This is an example of what could happen behind the scenes of the upcoming October 26 re-elections. The August 4 amendments of the Public Office Election Law have granted civilians, in addition to public officials such as soldiers and police service personnel, the right to vote by absentee ballots after a simple application. Notably, in the re-elections, it is possible to receive the ballot and vote from one’s place of residence (home or office), unlike in the general elections where separate polling booths were installed.

Each of the separate campaigns has targeted absentee voters because their ballots could be a major factor concerning the low turnout rates for re-elections. However, it is possible to vote by proxy, as there exist no voter verification formalities from the application process until the actual voting, creating many possibilities for fraud.

Anyone can obtain an application form for an absentee ballot. One can either download the form from the homepage of the National Election Commission or visit one’s district office, city hall, town office, or township office to receive an application form with no identification required.

The possibilities of organized groups buying votes and voting illegally by proxy are some of the issues being raised by the campaigns of the various candidates. An associate in the campaign for office in Wonmi-gap, Bucheon, Gyeonggi, said, “Although there is no physical evidence, there exist rumours of a 50,000 won reward to those applying for an absentee ballot, and an additional 50,000 won to those who bring the ballot paper.”

There are also stories of allotting quotas for absentee ballots in each sector, with the heads of those districts being paid accordingly.

Another candidate’s campaign running for the same district went further to say, “There’s a chance that a voter may vote without even knowing.” This implies that the National Election Commission may be unable to identify those who illegally fill out applications for probable absentee voters and receive the absentee ballots at their own designated locations to cast the votes.

The National Election Commission seemed to be uneasy about the matter, despite saying, “If any such acts are discovered, the election will be ruled null and void. If an eligible voter receives 50,000 won and prosecutes the case, he or she will be eligible to receive up to 50 million won in reward money, and this will narrow the chances of fraud.”

Regarding this, special orders stipulating checks on absentee voting were given by the National Election Commission to the four district election committees up for re-election on October 11.

The NEC declared its plans to install voting booths for absentee voters in future elections. However, the upcoming election is what everyone is keeping a close eye on, and even a single act of misconduct could be enough to create an election debacle.

Yong-Gwan Jung yongari@donga.com