Highest early voting turnout yet for local elections
The early voting turnout for this week’s local elections hit a record as Koreans headed to the polls Friday and Saturday.
Over 9.1 million people, or 20.62 percent of the eligible voting population, headed to the polls early to vote for the 17 metropolitan mayors and provincial governors, including the Seoul mayor and Gyeonggi governor, as well over 200 lower-level council heads, 779 seats in provincial and metropolitan councils and around 2,600 seats in lower-level local councils, according to the National Election Commission (NEC).
The official day for local elections is Wednesday.
This year's early voting turnout is the highest among all early voting turnouts in Korea’s local election history, which has been on a steady climb since early voting was first allowed in 2014.
During the last local elections in 2018, 20.1 percent voted early. In 2014, the turnout was 11.48 percent.
Both the People Power Party and Democratic Party have been encouraging constituents to vote early to show their support for the candidates.
Among those who told Gallup Korea last week that they intended to vote early, nearly half, or 47.9 percent, said they will vote early so they can “do something else on election day.” The next most common answer, with 16 percent, said they would vote early because they’re working on election day.
As of Saturday evening, the highest turnout rate was in South Jeolla, where 31.04 percent of its voters came to cast their ballot early, followed by 25.2 percent of Gangwon voters, 24.41 percent of North Jeolla voters and 22.39 percent of Sejong voters, according to the NEC.
The lowest turnout was in Daegu, where 14.8 percent of voters had gone to the polls early.
In Seoul, 21.1 percent voted early.
When counting all past elections, including general and presidential elections, however, the early voter turnout this time around falls short.
In the recent presidential election in March, 36.93 percent of voters went to the polls early, and in the general election of 2020, 26.69 percent of voters went early.
Some regions are hosting parliamentary by-elections on Wednesday for seven National Assembly seats, including a district in Incheon and in Seongnam, Gyeonggi, whose candidates include political heavyweights such as former presidential contenders Lee Jae-myung and Ahn Cheol-soo.
A total of 261,308 people, or 21.76 percent of voters in the region, went to the polls early for the by-election, according to the NEC.
BY ESTHER CHUNG [email@example.com]