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Absentee Registrations Cast Suspicions of Foul Play on Upcoming Re-election

Absentee Registrations Cast Suspicions of Foul Play on Upcoming Re-election

Posted October. 13, 2005 07:06,   


A newly amended election law that greatly expands the scope of absentee voting will be in effect for the first time in the upcoming October 26 re-election of National Assemblymen. But the new system is already causing controversy as cases of mass absentee registration by proxy are being discovered in several districts around the country.

The National Election Commission (NEC) announced Wednesday that its local branch has reported to the Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office one Mr. Chung (45) on the charge of violating the election law by submitting falsified absentee registrations using other people’s names and addresses.

According to the NEC, Chung submitted 239 absentee registrations to the Hyomun-dong village office during the recent registration period that lasted from October 7 to 11.

“When we contacted the people named on the registrations, at least 13 of them stated that they had never asked Chung to submit their absentee registrations,” the NEC explained.

Among the registrations submitted by Chung, some 40 are reportedly missing signatures or addresses.

Article 38 of the election law, amended in August of this year, specifies that any eligible voter who has submitted an absentee registration can cast his or her ballot from home. However, many have pointed out that this may lead to voting by proxy as well as undermine the secrecy of the ballot. The political community is belatedly examining various ways of re-amending the election law to fortify the requirements for absentee voting.

The NEC also noted that a total of 539 absentee registrations in a district in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province were also submitted in batches of two or more. “We will investigate all registrations suspected of foul play,” the NEC stated, “But it is perfectly legal for an absentee voter to fill out a registration then request an agent to submit it on his or her behalf.”

Meanwhile, Grand National Party vice spokesman Lee Jung-hyun claimed on the same day, “An inspection of absentee registrations at several village offices in Bucheon has revealed that a person who does not even reside in the area has submitted a whopping 50 registrations.” He added, “We have evidence that this person is affiliated with the Uri Party.”

Former National Assemblyman Lee Sang-su, who is running for re-election in the area of Bucheon in question, refuted the claim, saying, “I don’t know if the party headquarters engaged in promoting absentee registrations, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with us.”

Similarly, Uri Party vice spokesperson Seo Young-kyo held a press conference to emphasize that “absentee registrations are not illegal,” arguing that “the Grand National Party is muddying the waters with their political attacks.”

Current laws state that anyone found guilty of submitting a false absentee registration will be subject to a prison term of three years or less, or a fine of five million won or less.

Kang-Myoung Chang tesomiom@donga.com