The Yomiuri Shimbun
Expand voting opportunities for youths in upper house election this summer
The central and local governments, as well as political parties, must cooperate to create an environment in which young people who become newly eligible voters can use that right properly.
A lawmaker-initiated bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law was approved unanimously at a special committee of the House of Councillors. The bill is designed to eliminate cases in which young people who are expected to change their residence this spring cannot vote in the House of Councillors election slated for this summer. The committee’s approval makes it certain that the bill will be passed into law shortly.
Under the current law, only eligible voters who have lived at their present residence for more than three months are listed on the voting register of municipal governments — villages, towns, wards or cities — and are able to cast ballots.
Should the upper house election be officially announced on June 23, with voting to be held and the ballots counted on July 10, that would prevent from voting young people aged 18 or 19 who may change residences in order to enter the next stage of education or start working on March 23 or later.
This would have affected about 70,000 of the about 2.4 million youths who are expected to become newly eligible voters. With the legal revision, they will be able to cast their votes in the municipality where they lived before their move.
The lowering of the minimum voting age to 18 will encourage the young generation to participate in the political process, and may be an important turning point in expanding the base for democracy. Settling the legal deficiency and securing their opportunity to vote are appropriate measures.
The election administration commission of each municipality must expedite such efforts as making systems modifications to voter registration to ensure smooth implementation.
More voting venues
The central government plans to submit a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law, designed to enhance voters’ convenience, and have it passed into law.
Presently, voting on election day is limited to one polling place designated for each voter. With the government-initiated revision, voters will also be able to submit their ballots at a “common voting place,” to be newly set up at such venues as commercial facilities and stations. Voting hours will also be extended on days prior to the election day.
The revision is also intended to expand the range of minors allowed to accompany a voter into a polling station from infants, as stipulated in the present law, to people under 18. This is expected to help future voters feel familiar with casting ballots.
We hope the central and local governments will proactively work on building an environment in which voters are able to cast their votes with ease, while adopting all possible measures to prevent such dishonest acts as double voting and avoid errors.
The turnout rate in various elections has been declining over many years, and the low interest in politics among young people is also a cause for concern. It is necessary to proactively enlighten young people about the importance of elections, which are the basis of democracy.
With an eye on the upper house election, political parties are throwing their energy into holding discussion meetings to be attended by legislators and students, and into transmitting information. We hope the parties utilize their exchanges with young people in their policy making.
Schools have already started such activities as inviting people including officials from local election administration commissions to help students learn about the Public Offices Election Law and the voting process and hold mock elections with fictitious candidates. With cooperation from such entities as local assemblies, opportunities should also be increased for students to talk with assembly members.
It is important to promote more pragmatic learning aimed at enhancing young people’s awareness as voters, while securing political impartiality.
(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 28, 2016)