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Technology brings changes to voting

Electronic authentication system boosts balloting efficiency

Korea posted a record high early voter turnout in part due to technologies such as electronic voting, adopted at ballot stations nationwide.

Various political agenda ― from the Sewol ferry sinking and education, to public welfare and security ― have driven mostly those in their 20s and 30s to vote in advance.

But the record turnout of 11.5 percent during the two-day period last week was partly attributable to a connected system allowing more than 3,500 polling stations to rapidly cross-check voters’ identities with a centralized database.

Given that the database stored information of eligible voters, constituents were able to quickly and comfortably cast their ballots anywhere by either showing identification cards or having their fingerprints scanned.
Constituents go through a fingerprint authentication process before casting their ballots during the two-day early voting period last week. (Yonhap)
Constituents go through a fingerprint authentication process before casting their ballots during the two-day early voting period last week. (Yonhap)

Voters were able to save time, and the National Election Commission was able to greatly reduce the possibility of voting errors through the digital ID authentication process, unlike in the old days when people had to wait in line until volunteers or NEC employees went through a thick book resembling the Yellow Pages to check whether they were eligible to vote.

During this analogue process, people were sometimes led to sign in incorrectly, causing voter mismatches and confusion.

However, NEC officials said it may take some time to fully deploy the solutions in all parts of the voting process.

“Computerizing the entire process of an election, from registering and balloting to counting would require social and political consensus,”an election watchdog official said.

“Security is another issue that has to be guaranteed before full deployment.”

However, electronic voting is being used widely in industry.

For instance, some 200 members of a medical doctor’s association gathered in southern Seoul in April to vote on a series of issues including an election for its chairman.

Instead of marking paper ballots, the doctors pressed a button on a small pager-like device.

The votes were counted immediately and displayed on a large screen in the meeting room.

As demand for efficiency and accuracy in the voting process increases, the private sector is trying to seize this opportunity to sell products related to electronic balloting.

Suprema, a Korean biometric solution company, is one of those that has ramped up the production of its authentication products.

The Korean firm inked a deal with the Ugandan government, which is trying to implement an electronic voting system, to supply fingerprint scanners worth 4 billion won ($3.9 million) last month.

By Kim Young-won (