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[Opinion] Absentee Voting

Posted October. 13, 2005 07:06,   


Voting rate for re-elections or by-elections is generally low. This year, the figure for the April 30 elections was 33.6 percent, less than half of that of general elections. This exists because few people are interested in these elections compared to a nationwide one, and also, the elections occurred during a work day. As such, those with a support rate of a mere 10 percent of the total voters were elected, casting doubts on the validity of the results. Against this backdrop, in August, both parties came up with a measure to boost the voting rate for re-elections or by-elections: casting a vote without going to the polling stations.

Absentee voting was limited to soldiers and police officers serving at specially designated zones, severely ill patients, and those with disabilities. The October 26 re-election was the first of its kind to allow ordinary voters with the right for absentee voting. Anyone who registers as an absentee voter is eligible to vote in their residences and may send ballots via mail. This may help boost the voting rate if managed well. This time, the number of voters who voted in their residences was 2,513 in the eastern part of Daegu, 1,394 in the northern part of Ulsan, 2,635 in Womnigap, Bucheon, and 2,161 in Gwangju, Gyeonggi Province.

However, as elections are in full swing, problems are emerging. There is no election monitoring system, opening the possibility of voting by proxy or vote buying. Some point out that voters may choose in front of a third party, which violates the secret voting clause in the constitution. Kim Moo-seong, secretary general of the Grand National Party, emphasized the need for a measure in which “rumors are going around that if one registers for absentee voting or submits a ballot in certain areas, 50,000 won will be given.” It is regrettable that there was no noise surrounding the amendment of election laws, and now all of a sudden, people are making such a fuss.

The National Election Commission (NEC) came up with an urgent measure to track voting by proxy, but will it resolve all the problems of voting in one’s own residence? Secretary-general Park Gi-soo of the NEC said, “Frankly, we are very concerned about it.” Voters themselves would have to be honest enough to cast their own ballots. If there are signs of voting by proxy or vote buying, it should be reported so that even if the candidates are elected through the vote balloting, they will be invalidated. Expanding the voting at one’s own residences needs to be reviewed, albeit belated. In re-elections, which are conducted again because of illegalities, no mistake should be repeated.

Song Young-eon, Editorial Writer, youngeon@donga.com