Signs of maturityToday is Election Day. Voters pick their governors, mayors, heads of counties and councilmen across the country. The good news is that over 20 percent of the voters have already cast their ballots through the early voting system. Considering that this election was overshadowed by such mega-events as Tuesday’s summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in Singapore, such a high voter turnout is very encouraging. Most political experts expected it to hit the lowest level in history. But the turnout in early voting was eight percentage points higher than in 2014 when early voting was first introduced for local elections.
Regarding the higher-than-expected voter turnout, the ruling Democratic Party and opposition parties have come up with interpretations in their favor. That does not make sense. The fact that nearly one out of five voters cast ballots in early voting reflects the mature desire of our citizens to exercise their voting rights. It is far-fetched to interpret it as a manifestation of a willingness to vote for a particular political party. Put simply, voters are well aware of the fact that local governments can have more of an immediate impact on their daily lives — for instance, environmental and education issues involving their children — than the central government does.
The government can consider the idea of extending our early voting period to help encourage voters to participate in local elections more actively than before. It does not have to limit the period to two days — last Friday and Saturday in this local elections. If the government allows voters to cast their ballots for more than a week — even if that calls for a slightly higher budget — that will provide voters with more opportunities to vote. In the United States, for example, the government allows voters to cast their ballots as early as 50 days before election day.
There is another benefit as well. If the voting period is extended, it could help prevent voters from showing political apathy over the habitual mudslinging and negative campaigns by candidates, which pollute every election season. Candidates will be less tempted to resort to a dirty war against their rivals to turn the tide at the last minute.
Local politicians should compete with their rivals over policy issues rather than smears or other inappropriate means. We hope the high voter turnout leads to the same results today so that it can pave the way for the development of our less than fully mature political culture.