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Asia Minute: South Korea Breaks Voter Turnout Record Despite Pandemic

AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon
A woman wearing a face mask to help protect against the spread of the new coronavirus exits out to cast her vote for the parliamentary election at a polling station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Hawaii’s election schedule is going ahead as planned. The Office of Elections says the primary will be held on August 8th. The elections will be held by mail – but in South Korea this week there was a very different experience — despite the challenging timing.

The story of South Korea’s national parliamentary elections may start with voter turnout: more than two-thirds of eligible voters.

In the middle of a pandemic.

The National Election Commission says it was the highest turnout for such an election in 28 years.

In case you’re curious, voter turnout in Hawaii’s last election was about 53% of registered voters.

While much of the turnout in South Korea was early voting, millions of voters showed up in person on Wednesday — lining up wearing masks and putting on plastic gloves to cast ballots.

The ruling party of President Moon Jae-in was the big winner — staging a dramatic turnaround in political support since the polling in days and weeks before the novel coronavirus outbreak.

It was also the first election since the government lowered the voting age to 18 from 19 in December.

The election commission even made special provisions for those under self-quarantine. People who were self-isolating but not showing symptoms of COVID-19 were allowed to come to polling places after 6 PM — when voting for the rest of the electorate had stopped.

Nearly 60,000 people are still under self-quarantine in South Korea.

The Ministry of the Interior says nearly 14,000 showed up to vote.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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