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Appeal sparks outrage over voting rights curb

Kyodo, JIJI

The father of a woman with Down syndrome who filed suit to regain her right to vote slammed the government Thursday for appealing a Tokyo District Court ruling that declared unconstitutional a provision in the election law that denies voting rights to adults under guardianship.

“I don’t know what reasons the ministries have, but is it right to leave the state of unconstitutionality as is?” Seikichi Nagoya, the father and guardian of the lawsuit’s plaintiff, Takumi Nagoya, said at a news conference in lashing out at the appeal the government filed Wednesday. “I’m enraged.”

Nagoya demanded that the government withdraw its appeal and revise the law so that his daughter, who was unable to attend the news conference due to work, can vote.

“She was happy when told by the presiding judge that she could cast votes in elections (from now on),” Nagoya said. “She must have been disappointed by (the appeal) even though her expression remained unchanged.”

Nagoya’s lawyer called the government’s appeal unreasonable and inhumane because it is intended simply to “avoid confusion” in nationwide elections.

“We feel sympathy for the plaintiff’s desire to vote but decided to take this action to avoid turmoil in regional elections across the county,” internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo told reporters Wednesday.

But a revision of the law would require time in order to determine the voting rights of adults under guardianship, he added.

The government and the ruling coalition plan to review the provision of the Public Offices Election Law. The review should be made quickly so that a law revision can be made before an appeal ruling is handed down, Shindo said.

Takumi Nagoya, 50, of Ibaraki Prefecture, filed the suit with the district court in February 2011. On March 14, the court ruled the provision in the election law was unconstitutional.

As of the end of December, there were some 136,000 adult wards across the country.