[VIEWPOINT]Use caution in electronic votingElectronic voting systems will be introduced and partially implemented during the 18th legislative elections in 2008. The introduction of electronic voting systems is a vast project that includes all the processes of identifying voters through an electronic voter list, voting by the electronic terminals through touch-screens and electronic counting of ballots through automatic recording and storing the voting results.
Electronic voting systems differ, more or less, according to the technological contents and form each country adopts. The most common method is to use an electronic terminal or the Internet. In the United States, use of electronic pens or scanners are also recognized as electronic voting.
In England, a method of using wireless communications devices like cell phones is defined as electronic voting. The plan on the partial introduction of an electronic voting system announced by the National Election Commission this time may bring change to our elections and voting systems in a broad sense.
Therefore, the plan should include political and social issues that are expected to be raised by the new system as well as technical concerns, and appropriate resources should be invested in solving these issues. Among these, leading issues can be summarized as follows.
The first issue is creating a mechanism that can draw political consensus on the introduction of an electronic voting system. The first goal of the introduction of electronic voting will be to increase voter turnout. A common purpose of this system will be to increase voter turnout by getting rid of inconvenient aspects of voting. But the problem of enhancing the turnout through electronic voting is not as simple as we may think.
For example, political parties cannot but respond sensitively to the effect of the increased voter turnout rates. People in their twenties and thirties who are relatively accustomed to information and communication technology have more opportunities to participate in voting through electronic voting systems.
Whether their increased participation will boost a certain party will naturally become an essential discussion issue in political circles. For this reason, the introduction of electronic voting should be premised on political consensus.
It is true in the United States that electronic voting has been the subject of research in the Democratic and Republican parties to find out how increased turnout would affect the interest of each party. It should also be remembered that electronic voting systems were tested in Belgium and Switzerland, but failed to be adopted for political reasons.
The second issue is how to persuade the voters, who actually cast ballots, on the merits of the new system. We are apt to think that when a new method of voting is introduced, voters will be persuaded simply through formal public relations by the government. To overcome this passive attitude and succeed in institutionalizing electronic voting, its effect should be clearly identified. In other words, what matters is not the form of public relations but its contents.
The mechanism of public relations and persuasion can be created through the empirical measurement and evaluation of the political and social effects of electronic voting. For this purpose, there should certainly be a prior plan on which experts and research institutes will be mobilized and in what method these experiments and evaluation will be carried out.
The third and final issue is to prepare a related law that can ensure the transparency and reliability of the voting system by guaranteeing technological stability.
Electronic voting without changes in the system and the law is like a castle in the air, because the preparation of a related law is the key to instilling pride not only in the electronic voting system itself but also in our democracy.
Therefore, we need to complete a roadmap for the preparation of the law to implement electronic voting. A nationwide discussion on electronic voting should begin with these three major issues as the focus.
* The writer is a professor of political science at Paichai University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Chung Yeon-jung