February 4, 2022
SEOUL – Concerns are mounting over whether COVID-19 patients will be unable to cast their votes for the 20th presidential election, as those confirmed with the virus after the mail-in ballot registration period may be unable to report to voting booths on March 9.
The National Election Commission said Friday it would receive applications for mail-in ballots from Wednesday to Sunday next week. The registration is available to COVID-19 patients housed in treatment centers or those in isolation or self-quarantine.
Those who register within the period will be able to receive their ballots in the mail and cast their votes by sending back the ballot to the election authority.
The National Election Commission will allow those housed in treatment centers on the election date to cast their ballots inside treatment centers in accordance with a guideline made for the parliamentary elections in 2020. But no measures are prepared yet for COVID-19 patients isolating at home or those in self-quarantine.
South Korea on Friday reported 27,443 new COVID-19 cases, the largest daily number of new cases so far. The number of patients receiving at-home care rose 7,721 from a day earlier to 104,857, nearing the country’s maximum care capacity of 106,000.
Some have warned that the number of new daily new cases could exceed 100,000 cases next month by the time of the election, which causes worries that hundreds of thousands of voters may not be able to cast their votes on the presidential election.
The National Election Commission told media that it was discussing measures to ensure voting rights for COVID-19 patients. The measures used for the April by-elections last year will be unfeasible, it said, as the number of cases is much higher now than April 2020.
Rep. Hong Jung-min of the Democratic Party of Korea proposed a bill last month aimed at providing legal support to ensure the right to vote for COVID-19 patients, but no progress has been made on the legislative proposal yet.