In 2013 the National Election Commission (NEC) introduced early voting for the first time during by-elections, and first implemented them nationwide in local elections in 2014. This system allows voters to cast their ballot at any polling station across the country on the Friday and Saturday preceding the election day itself without any separate registration. Last year saw record turnout in early voting during National Assembly elections (12% of registered voters used early voting), and with Presidential elections this year that number is expected to increase, especially as elections maybe be held early after mass demonstrations led to the ongoing impeachment process.
Research into the effect of this introduction of early voting can be compared to the introduction of early voting or pre-poll voting in other countries. For example, a study by Blais et al for Elections Canada names Potential Impacts of Extended Advance Voting on Voter Turnout found that early forms of voting tended to benefit the elderly most and ‘had a positive impact on turnout, but that the effect is somewhat weak and uncertain.’ In addition, Franklin in various work (1996, 2002, 2006) has also noted the potential high increase in voter turnout if voting methods are increased and elections take place on a Sunday, and this should be directly compared to the impact of opening voting on Friday and Saturday as well as on election day (Wednesday) in Korea. It is also worth exploring the effect on voter turnout in comparison to the adoption of an all-postal system, which both Norris in Will New Technology Boost Turnout? And James in Fewer Costs, More Votes? United Kingdom Innovations in Election Administration 2000-2007 and the Effect on Voter Turnout found can “significantly increase turnout.” This paper will use the Korean case to compare and contrast the effects of the introduction of early voting with other research of this kind to find if the data concurs with results found in other countries.
This paper will analyze how early voting in South Korea works, particularly looking at the implementation of election ICT in the process, what effect this has had on voter turnout and how this system compares with other forms of early voting in countries such as the USA and Canada in both its implementation and effect. The use of an integrated voting list and a ballot printer in polling stations has made this system possible, and the paper will explore if these additions have been effected. As stated in International IDEA’s ‘Electoral Management Design’ guidebook, any reforms or additional voting methods should “enable the additional access while maintaining high integrity in the voter registration, voting and counting processes,’ and it is important to evaluate if this system meets this standard.
Data from the NEC that details early voting turnout by age, gender, residence and the day of voting (Friday or Saturday) as well as testimony from polling staff and voters will be used in this analysis.