Introducing electronic voting again

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Introducing electronic voting again

The author is the head of the Innovation Lab of the JoongAng Ilbo.

Walking around outside, you often encounter signs and posters of the candidates for the 20th presidential election. However, you hardly see people actually stop and read them carefully. They are official advertisements, but they will become trash in a few days.

According to the National Election Commission (NEC), the 10-meter (33-feet) by 0.8-meter election posters at 84,884 locations around the country when spread out would be equivalent to 11 times the size of the Seoul World Cup Stadium. When you put them together in length, it covers the distance between Seoul and Busan back and forth. The biggest headache is the banners. They are not only hard to recycle, but they also have harmful substances that cause environmental pollution when put in a landfill or incinerated.

And the election law isn’t helping. When it was revised in 2018, the number of banners allowed to be hung increased up to twice the previous number.

For this presidential election, a total of 400 million copies that include 290 million booklets, 970,000 braille editions and 108.5 million leaflets have been sent to households. While leaflets are not essential, all candidates are required to provide booklets.

For this presidential election, there were advertisements the size of a business card on recycled paper with very small font. They may not be reader-friendly but they are the most environmentally friendly. On election day, trash collected aside from the ballots as disposable gloves and protective gear will be given to voters and election management officers to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

The NEC expects the total cost of the election to reach more than 420 billion won ($339.9 million), including 266.2 billion won in election management, 46.5 billion won in election subsidies and 108.3 billion won for candidates’ cost reimbursement. If election advertisements and other information can be received by messenger, text message or email rather than post, considerable portions of the expenses can be saved. To do that, the election law needs to be revised first.

Using electronic voting on a touchscreen or mobile elections can drastically cut the cost and waste from voting and counting. It can also prevent the controversy over some overseas voters’ early votes, which became invalid after candidate Ahn Cheol-soo from the minor opposition People’s Party (PP) withdrew at the last minute. If we use electronic voting, there will be no need to hold oversees voting early. Voters also can save time and the cost of travel.

As the Covid-19 pandemic protracts, people have become accustomed to mobile verification, and blockchain-based forgery prevention also has progressed. Considering various circumstances, it may be the right time to discuss the introduction of electronic voting again.

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