Splashing cold water on voting by Covid patients

Home > Opinion > Editorials

print dictionary print

Splashing cold water on voting by Covid patients

Voter turnout for the early voting on Friday and Saturday last week reached a record-high 36.93 percent. But a number of polling stations across the country faced backlash due to poor management of the electoral process by the National Election Commission (NEC). As it turned out, many voters who tested positive for Covid-19 had to wait one to two hours in the cold weather to cast ballots at make-shift polling booths installed outside the official polling stations. Some patients even fell to the ground while waiting.

Moreover, voters infected with the coronavirus were astonished to see their ballots be collected into a cardboard box or shopping bag to be relayed to official voting booths set up inside the building. Outraged, they demanded their votes not be counted in. But the request was immediately rejected by election management officials on the spot as they just “followed the directions from the NEC.” At a polling station in northern Seoul, a voter even discovered that his ballot had been filled out with a mark that shows support for the ruling party candidate.

Such incomprehensible episodes originated with the election management body’s lax attitude and incompetence. Appearing at the National Assembly last month, an NEC official anticipated that voters infected with the virus will be about 20 per polling station. He also said that 40 minutes will be enough for all of them to vote. But it took up to two hours after hundreds of them went to polling stations in many places.

The number of Covid patients has already exceeded 4.4 million. If the NEC poorly manages votes by them — accounting for more than 10 percent of the entire voters — it could easily trigger disobedience from the losing side. Nevertheless, the election manager stopped at extending their voting hours by 90 minutes on March 9, the election day, without caring for an increasing number of voters who tested positive.

Worse, the NEC insisted that it did nothing wrong as it just followed the rule. It even attacked some infected voters for “making a disturbance” at polling stations. It apologized belatedly, but a lack of reasonable explanations about its poor treatment of the votes only fuels suspicion.

Only two days are left until the voting day. The NEC must make sure such confusion does not happen again. Above all, officials must allow Covid patients to vote in the presence of observers representing both the ruling and opposition parties just like their counterparts do. The NEC also must consider the idea of extending their voting hours currently fixed at 90 minutes. Such aberrant episodes at polling stations constitute a critical dereliction of duty for the pivotal body that manages free and fair elections.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)