Unlike the absentee voting system that required electorates to apply for an absentee ballot three weeks before election, the new system enables voters to visit any polling station in Korea and cast a ballot without valid reason to participate in early voting.
“The early voting system protects Koreans’ equal right to vote,” said a public relations official from the NEC. “Citizens can vote at the nearest polling station without additional registration.”
Under the absentee voting system, an extra polling station was installed at any organization where the number of absentee voters exceeded 2000.
Because there are university students from other regions, campus polling stations were common until 2013. However, early voting polling stations were not installed on campus for this election.
According to the NEC, early voting is accessible as there are more designated polling stations.
“For the June 4 local elections, 3,506 early voting polling stations were installed across the country with one in every eup, myeon or dong,” the official said. “This a drastic increase from 560 absentee voting polling stations for the 2012 presidential election.”
The elimination of polling stations from universities has sparked controversy between some university students and the National Election Committee.
In May 21, the Youth Voters Network, an organization comprised of 12 youth organizations including Korea Youth Corps and the Seoul Student Union, protested for the installation of early voting polling stations on campus in front of the NEC building.
They demanded the installation of 10 polling stations at universities in Seoul with 15,000 or more students and additional stations in neighborhoods where youths and laborers are concentrated.
The Youth Voters Network asserted that contrary to its aim, the early voting system could have made it more difficult for citizens to vote. It explained that the elimination of campus polling stations had led to decreased interest in this election since those stations encourage university students to become interested in voting.
“University is a place where the goals of the early voting system, making voting accessible and convenient, can be best achieved,” the members of the Youth Voters Network said. “Polling stations on campus would effectively demonstrate the right to vote when most students are casting their first ballots in their lifetime.”
Meanwhile, students in Ewha have diverging opinions about the installment of early voting polling stations on campus.
“It is hard for students from other regions to vote off campus,” said Son Su-ji (Liberal Arts, 1). “Setting up campus polling stations would make voting convenient and accessible to all students.”
Nevertheless, some believed that campus polling stations were unnecessary.
“A person’s will determines whether one votes or not,” Choi Da-woon (English Education, 1) said. “Also, installing polling stations on campus would cost money to pay for the workers and space.”