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[Election 2016] Early voting ends in record-high turnout

Early voting for Wednesday’s parliamentary election closed with a record-high voter turnout, announcing a rather successful kickoff to the new supplementary voting method.

But some protested the process was partly inappropriate, alluding to possible errors or even influence-peddling.

The two-day preliminary voting ended at 6 p.m. on Saturday with voter turnout of 12.2 percent -- 5.13 million out of the 42.1 million eligible voters across the nation -- according to the National Election Commission.
(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)
This marked the highest recorded early turnout since the 2013 by-elections, when the system was adopted for the first time, and the 2014 local elections, when the system was expanded nationwide. The corresponding turnout in the 2014 local elections was 11.5 percent.

South Jeolla Province, in the southwest of the country that is leaned toward the opposition, had the highest turnout, while the conservative stronghold city of Busan had the lowest. Seoul’s turnout was close to the national average.

Once voting hours ended, the boxes were sealed with a special sealing paper in the presence of election officials and observers, and then transported from individual polling stations to regional NEC offices.

For equity’s sake, the NEC will be storing the early ballot boxes within restricted areas of its local offices until the closing of polls on the main voting day, officials said.

Also, security cameras were installed at the 253 storage spots nationwide to record the entire process until the ballot boxes are opened Wednesday night.

Should any of the candidates or parties raise objections on the delivery, storage or opening of the ballots, the NEC will release the relevant recorded video files, according to officials.

Despite such precautions, however, controversy was stirred as some ballot boxes were found to be unsealed.

An election supervision official at an early voting station in Incheon erroneously opened the seal of a ballot box late on Friday, the NEC Incheon office said Saturday.

“The official mistook the box as containing extra-jurisdictional ballots and tore the seal off,” a representative from the NEC commented.

“The unsealing took place under the supervision of the election supervisors and none of the district’s candidates raised an objection.”

In Daegu, candidate Kim Boo-kyum of The Minjoo Party of Korea blasted his rival from the ruling Saenuri Party, Kim Moon-soo, for offering transportation to local voters during the early voting period and thus inducing them to vote in his favor.

The Saenuri candidate’s camp, however, denied the allegations and lashed back that the Minjoo Party’s Kim violated election regulations by placing his campaigners at the doors of polling stations.

The NEC had earlier announced that it would clamp down on acts of expressing support or opposition against a specific candidate within 100 meters of polling spots, as well as on the provision of transportations to voters.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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