A black eye for the NECIt is shocking that six ballots went missing during the ballot counting process of the April 15 general elections, no matter what happened. The National Election Commission (NEC) didn’t even know about this until Rep. Min Kyung-wook of the United Future Party (UFP) showed the ballots during a press conference earlier this week. The reputation of the NEC, responsible for the fair and transparent management of elections, is critically damaged.
The NEC confirmed that the ballots, shown by Min, had the same identification numbers as leftover ballots that had gone missing in District 2 of Sutaek 2-dong in Guri. The NEC said the ballots were stolen and asked the prosecution to launch an investigation.
The NEC, however, failed to give a convincing explanation as to why the ballots were stored unsealed in a fitness facility inside the Guri Sports Center where no CCTV is installed. Even if they were leftover ballots, they should have been stored securely. The NEC certainly betrayed the people’s expectations based on common sense. And the NEC is not apologizing or promising that it won’t happen again. It is no wonder that the people were disappointed at the NEC’s irresponsible and poor management of the elections. Skepticism about the last elections’ integrity are growing.
It was also revealed that early voting ballots were stored in snack boxes in some districts, including Seoul’s Dobong B District, stirring more controversy. The NEC said the early voter turnout was higher than expected, and there was a shortage of boxes prepared to store ballots. It said boxes used to store bread for the day’s snacks were temporarily used.
It may not be a clear legal violation, but the explanation is lame enough for the public to question the lack of preparations by the NEC and the professionalism of its election management. This is why a conspiracy theory is spreading among some conservative opinion makers and universities that election fraud was committed last month.
Former NEC Secretary General Kim Dai-nyeon, who worked on election management for 30 years, dismissed the possibility that the April 15 general elections were rigged, but still criticized the NEC for having undermined the public’s confidence in it.
When the Liberty Korea Party, the predecessor of the UFP, said it wanted to name its satellite political party the proportional Liberty Korea Party, the NEC allowed it but later reversed the decision. Kim said the NEC has offered grounds to invite suspicions about its integrity. His point is reasonable.
Fair management of elections is the bedrock of a democracy. The case of the missing ballots must be investigated thoroughly and quickly, and the NEC’s deteriorating reputation and confidence must be restored.
JoongAng Ilbo, May 15, Page 34