Presidential candidates of the ruling and main opposition parties are encouraging early voting. “Please participate in early voting on Friday and Saturday and encourage others to do so,” said Lee Jae-myung, the candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea. “We cannot win only with the day of voting. Please go ahead and vote early,” said Yoon Seok-youl, the candidate of the People Power Party. As the competition is fierce, they seem to think that it is in their favor to earn as many votes as possible from their support groups in early voting.
In fact, the participation rate in early voting, which was first introduced nationwide for the 2014 local election, is on the rise. The highest participation records in early voting so far are 26.69 percent for the 2020 general elections and 26.06 percent for the 2017 presidential election. Unlike the main voting day when voters can only cast a vote in the place of their address of resident registration, people can vote anywhere for two days during the early voting period, which is why its popularity is growing. It isn’t necessary to differentiate between the main voting and early voting and it should be considered that voting takes place for three days.
From voters’ point of view, early voting is an easier and safer way to cast a vote given the increasing number of Omicron cases. The number of daily COVID-19 patients exceeded 170,000 and decreased recently to under 140,000 cases but it is estimated that the figure can reach 230,000 on the day of voting. COVID-19 patients or those under self-quarantine should receive temporary permission to go to a polling place between 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., which may lead them to give up on voting. There are also concerns about the high likelihood of infections.
Some conservative members still raise a suspicion that early voting results are manipulated. They have been proposing a conspiracy theory through rallies or YouTube that early voting for the 2020 general elections was manipulated and insisting that voters should only participate in the main voting. The National Election Commission filed a complaint to the prosecution for Hwang Kyo-ahn, the former leader of the United Future Party, and former National Assembly member Min Kyung-wook who have raised suspicion for early voting manipulation. The action taken by the commission seems a bit belated as it was taken only three days before early voting begins. It is regretful that the commission did not respond more proactively to the conspiracy theory on the rigged election. What’s clear is that there is no need to be swayed by the early voting manipulation suspicion that does not have objective ground.