[EDITORIALS]Gambling with democracyThe government is considering adopting a system in which ballots would also serve as lottery tickets. The idea came up after Han Myeong-sook, the new prime minister, ordered the cabinet to find ways to provide incentives to increase voter turnout.
Another idea on the list is handing out gift vouchers for books and other cultural products. Even the National Election Commission is considering taking one’s voting record into consideration when recruiting new civil servants.
It is worrisome that more voters are losing interest in elections. Even the presidential election, which usually draws the most public interest, saw a turnout of only 70.8 percent in 2002; it was 80.7 percent in 1997. In the 1998 local election, 52.7 percent turned in their ballots, but this dropped to 48.8 percent in 2002.
In a democracy, voting is both a right and an obligation.
Some say that the indifference to politics reflects the fact that political affairs are being run smoothly. That’s doubtful, to say the least. If voters give up their rights, not only will it be difficult to improve the quality of politics, it will also mean the people will relinquish their right to hold politicians responsible for their actions.
In countries like Belgium, Brazil and Argentina, people who do not vote must pay a fine. Other countries place certain restrictions on non-voters for a certain period. They can be barred from nomination for a public office or other form of political participation, or being refused a passport. This is done because those who do not vote do not fulfill their duty as citizens and therefore are not qualified to be citizens in a democracy.
However, things here are not yet that bad. Experts say either issuing punitive measures or handing out incentives should only be considered when the voting rate falls below 20 percent. The current turnout rate for local elections, which is comparatively low, is still around 50 percent.
The number of voters in a general election goes up when there is a special political issue. The point is how and what politicians do. Those who are more interested in winning a lottery than in electing the right person to run the country do not deserve the right to vote.
Such a plan might lead to more voter participation, but it has nothing to do with selecting proper representatives.
The right way is to focus on trying to level with voters rather than making light of their sacred right to vote by connecting it with gambling.
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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