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Central government settles spate of lawsuits

Wards win back their right to vote

Kyodo

The government settled a damages suit Wednesday with an adult ward in Kyoto seeking the right to vote.

It was the first time that the central government has reached an out-of-court settlement with an adult ward over the right to vote.

In a different but similar case, the Tokyo District Court ruled in March that a provision in the public offices election law that banned adults under legal guardianship from voting was unconstitutional.

The election law was revised in May to delete the provision.

The central government formally agreed at the Kyoto District Court to grant the right to vote to Yasuo Tanaka, a 59-year-old mentally disabled man in Kyoto, who in turn agreed to drop a ¥3 million damages suit.

Later in the day, the government settled similar suits in Saitama and Tokyo, granting voting rights to two women who have legal guardians.

It is scheduled to settle another suit in Sapporo on Thursday, according to internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo.

Tanaka said at a court session Wednesday he is “willing to go to vote proudly as a member of society” in the Upper House election Sunday.

He said he will vote for candidates who will work to improve welfare services.

“I can’t wait to cast my ballots,” he said later during a news conference.

Tanaka, who has a moderate intellectual disability, was declared to be incapacitated under the Civic Code in 1994 and lost the right to vote after he appointed a lawyer as his guardian to manage his assets.

He filed the damages suit in 2011.

Tanaka’s suit argued that the adult guardianship system deals only with the ability of adult wards to manage their own property and that the provision in the public offices election law “infringed on human rights.”

His legal agent, Wataru Tamiya, said Tanaka is interested in politics and voted before he lost the right in 1994.

Wataru Tamiya, a legal agent for Tanaka, said the plaintiff is interested in Japan’s politics and had voted in elections before he lost the voting right in 1994.

Data compiled by the Supreme Court show that about 136,000 adults had guardians as of the end of 2012.

On Tuesday, internal affairs minister Yoshitaka Shindo announced that the government would settle a lawsuit brought by an Ibaraki woman under guardianship who wants to exercise her right to vote, as well as similar lawsuits filed nationwide.

But Seikichi Nagoya, the guardian of the woman in Ibaraki, Takumi Nagoya, still criticized the government as moving too slowly.

“The law on public offices election has already been revised so the government could have agreed to a settlement earlier,” Seikichi Nagoya said.