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Diet OK looms on bill to rectify rules that currently would prevent some young people from voting

Kyodo

Ruling and opposition parties agreed Tuesday to pass a bill soon to enable people aged 18 or 19 to vote in the House of Councilors election this summer even if they change their address shortly before the election.

Japan is set to lower the voting age from 20 to 18 on June 19, and the Upper House election, likely to take place in July, will be the first national election in which voters under 20 cast a ballot.

Under the current election system, municipal offices compile voter lists based on data of residents who live at the same address for more than three months. As a result, young new voters who move to a different address shortly before the election would not be able to exercise their right to vote.

Lawmakers from ruling and opposition parties agreed to pass the bill to correct the election system through the House of Representatives on Thursday, making it certain the legislation will be enacted by the end of this month.

Around 2.4 million people aged 18 or 19 will be newly given voting rights before the upcoming national election this summer. But some 70,000 are expected to be unable to vote unless the bill is enacted, according to an estimate by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

Since Japan’s academic year starts in April, many high school graduates tend to move in the spring to start further education or work.

“We intend to have voices of the youth reflected in politics,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said at a news conference. “The government will watch closely to see how deliberations (on the bill) will go.”

Under the current election system, if the next Upper House election is set for July 10, the list of voters will be set on June 22, the day before the official election campaign starts.

That would mean new voters aged 18 and 19 would not be registered in the voter list if they change their address in the three months through June 22, rendering them ineligible to vote.

The envisioned bill would enable young people freshly given the voting right to exercise it in the voting district of their previous residence as long as they lived there for over three months, regardless of their age at the time.