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NEC says it will look into vote rigging

Claims were made in a documentary that was posted online Friday

Apr 20,2017
The state-run election watchdog said Wednesday it was willing to verify the votes cast in the 2012 presidential election to clear up any suspicion of voting fraud raised by a documentary released last week, stressing it would take all responsibility if any wrongdoing is found.

The National Election Commission(NEC), which takes charge of all electoral processes, including vote counting, added that the filmmakers of the documentary, titled “The Plan,” must be held accountable for spreading groundless allegations if the verification finds nothing.

“In light of allegations of vote rigging raised by ‘The Plan’ in the 18th presidential election, the NEC has decided one sure way to clear up any suspicion is to directly verify the ballots,” the election watchdog said in the statement.

“If the filmmakers demand verification after the 19th election (on May 9), the NEC will agree and have the verification take place through an independent body.”

The NEC then went on to dispute each allegation raised by the movie. It also called the film as a move to harm national unity and spur electoral disorder.

The NEC said it would “expect the filmmakers to recognize the heavy social responsibility they will be held to” if the allegations were proven false. The state-run body also called the allegations “an affront” to the 60,000 people who took part in the electoral counting process in 2012.

“The Plan,” produced by freelance journalist Kim O-joon, who enjoys celebrity-like status, has attracted more than a million viewers on YouTube since it was posted online last Friday.

The heart of the allegation involves an unusually high number of votes cast for candidate Park Geun-hye among unclassified ballots compared to classified ballots.

In Korean elections, scan counters are used to count ballots for each candidate at the first stage of vote counting.

If the scanners fail to sort ballots for whatever reason, such as a ballot having two stamps on it or a stamp that is on the edge or blurred, the machines file such ballots as ‘unclassified.’

Ballots in the unclassified box are manually counted by election officials and civilian volunteers.

The film notes that of the total votes cast, 3.6 percent, or 1.1 million, were unclassified, and of those, 89.9 percent, or 998,805, were declared valid votes.

Examining data provided by the NEC, the filmmakers found that while Park led Moon in classified ballots by 3.32 percent, when it came to unclassified ballots she led by 17.02 percent.

The film features a number of statistics professors in the United States and Canada, including Hyun Hwa-shin, professor of mathematics and statistics at Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada, who said the discrepancy should be close to one, but that it is 1.5, a figure that cannot be explained statistically unless one factors in interference.

“In the field of statistics,” says Hyun, “this pattern is designed and planned. We can’t conclude the ratio of 1.5 just came out naturally. It is systematic and planned.”

“The evidence is very strong,” Philp Stark, professor of statistics at University of California at Berkeley, says in the film, “that the equipment and software were failing to correctly interpret ballots for different candidates at different rates.”

The NEC denies this, saying a much higher number of unclassified votes went for Park because her support base was with older voters, who are more prone to making minor mistakes on ballots.

The NEC cited exit polls from the 2012 race, saying 72.3 percent of those aged 60 and above voted for Park.

“From this data, we can deduce that more ballots from older voters were categorized as unclassified and among the unclassified ballots there were more votes for Park than classified ones,” said the NEC.

Park won the election with a 3.6 percent margin with 51.6 to 48 on Election Day. Her presidency was cut short four years later with the Constitutional Court’s order to remove her from office. An official in the Moon Jae-in camp told the Korea JoongAng Daily that the camp respects the NEC’s decision.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]


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