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Election watchdog demonstrates ballot-counting process to dispel ‘rigging’ claims



(Yonhap)
(Yonhap)


South Korea’s election watchdog demonstrated the ballot-counting process to the public in a mock version on Thursday, intent on debunking vote-rigging allegations raised by a lawmaker who lost his seat in the April 15 parliamentary election.

The National Election Commission carried out the demonstration at its headquarters in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, setting up a hypothetical situation where 1,000 out of 4,000 eligible voters cast ballots in advance polls for four constituency candidates and 35 political parties for proportional representation.

The commission’s officials disassembled electronic machines used in last month’s election and explained how they work in an effort to prove the impossibility of rigging an election. One of the machines classifies ballot papers according to the choice of candidate and counts them. Another machine assesses the validity of the votes.

Since his defeat in the election, Rep. Min Kyung-wook of the main opposition United Future Party has accused the government of rigging the election to help his ruling party rival.

Min and some conservative YouTubers assert that spectrum sensors and communications equipment were installed in the digital voting machines to read and leak information on the QR codes printed on early voting papers. The codes, they claim, contained voters’ personal data.

They allege that the watchdog violated voters’ right to a secret ballot by using QR codes containing personal information instead of bar codes that are supposed to contain just serial numbers and constituency names. The watchdog denies the accusation, saying the QR codes were just an upgraded version of bar codes used in earlier elections and carried no personal details. Min has also claimed Chinese hackers were involved in the alleged election fraud.

On Thursday, the lawmaker questioned the credibility of the National Election Commission’s demonstration, saying the machines used for the event may have been manipulated.

“The NEC is a defendant in the cases that we filed complaints,” he said at a press conference in the morning at the National Assembly, where he called on prosecutors to objectively verify the facts.

Min was accompanied by a voting station observer, who claimed to have taken six ballot papers out of a vote-counting site after finding papers in different colors suspicious. The man, surnamed Lee, gave the ballots to Min to present them as evidence of election rigging.

On May 11, Min disclosed the unmarked ballot papers for proportional representation, saying the fact that they were in his hands was evidence of manipulation, since in early voting, ballot papers are printed each time a voter arrives at the polling station.

The ballot papers, however, were for use on election day -- April 15 -- not for early voting as Min claimed.

By Park Han-na (hnpark@heraldcorp.com)
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