/

Fukuoka court rules July vote gap nearly unconstitutional; results stand

Kyodo

The Fukuoka High Court ruled Thursday that the disparity in the weight of the votes cast in the House of Councilors election in July was “in a state of unconstitutionality” but rejected the plaintiffs’ demand to nullify the results.

The plaintiffs — a group of lawyers — said they plan to appeal.

In the ninth ruling to be issued by one of the 14 high courts and high court branches handling similar lawsuits across the country, the presiding judge, Yasuji Isshi, said the gaps in the vote weights were extremely unequal and could raise doubts about the constitutionality of the voting.

But he said only nine months had passed between the July 21 election and October 2012, when the Supreme Court ruled that the maximum fivefold disparity in vote weights in the 2010 Upper House election was “in a state of unconstitutionality.”

Isshi said the latest election was not unconstitutional, noting that the legislature had reduced the maximum weight gap somewhat by the 2012 contest.

The plaintiffs sought to have electoral results nullified in five prefectures in Kyushu — Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto and Oita.

Two groups of lawyers have filed lawsuits across the nation challenging the results of the Upper House poll because votes in some districts carried 4.77 times more value than in others, violating the equal-protection clause of the Constitution.

In the five prefectures, the number of voters per seat were 1.42- to 4.29-times bigger than in Tottori, a single-seat constituency with the smallest ratio. Of the 47 prefecture-based constituencies, the gap was largest in sprawling Hokkaido, which only has two seats.

In late November, the Hiroshima High Court’s Okayama branch said in the first ruling on the election that the results in the single-seat Okayama constituency should be invalidated due to the vote-weight disparity.