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11.49 % cast ballots at advance voting for local elections
JUNE 02, 2014 07:10  
Voter turnout at the advance voting conducted on Friday and Saturday ahead of Wednesday뭩 local elections has been tallied at 11.49 percent. It is more than twice the rate of voter turnout at advance voting for the by-elections held in April and October last year. Exercising of the voting right through advance voting by voters, who otherwise would find it difficult to vote on the election day, is a positive measure given the high voter turnout.

Unlike absentee voting of the past only offered to limited voters and polling stations, advance voting enables all voters to cast ballot at any polling station across the nation, increasing the exercise of voting right. However, in certain areas, campaigners are suspected of having attempted to exploit advance voting as an opportunity for election irregularity by mobilizing voters. Hence, regulatory authorities should thoroughly cope with and put in place institutional measures to address the problem. Authorities have started investigation in Jeonju and Sunchang in North Jeolla Province, Gokseong in South Jeolla Province, and Jeungpyeong in North Chungcheong Province, after receiving reports that incumbent chiefs of local governments and candidates for local government councils offered transportation assistance to voters who are participating in advance voting. Critics raise concerns that if election campaigners take residents to a remote location from their residence for advance voting while offering spa trips, authorities will have hard time cracking down on violators.

The voter turnout by age group released Sunday by the National Election Commission suggests that those in their 20s had a voter turnout of 15.97 percent, which is fairly high. But given that many military servicemen and policemen who accounted for a majority of absentee voters in the past are included in the figure, the actual voter turnout of people in their 20s would be similar to that of people in their 30s (9.41 percent). On the other hand, authorities should review if it is necessary to release the voter turnout by age group at advance voting ahead of the election day is unnecessary. The commission is not an agency for opinion polls. Given the election environment in Korea where different age groups display distinctive voting patterns, if the ruling and opposition parties stimulate sense of crisis to people in support of them by trumpeting with voter turnout at advance voting, it could affect election results and spawn illegal actions and excessive competition.

The National Election Commission says it has disclosed the turnout of advance voting to ensure people뭩 right to know. However, it is problematic to disclose voter turnout by age groups, which can be done after the local elections ends. The government should improve the advance voting system in a way that only discloses the overall voter turnout and voter turnout by area, if and when such data is to be released prior to the election day. It is hoped that Korea develops and improves the advance voting system to blossom 밽rass-root democracy through active voter participation by assuring positive aspects.

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