/

Lower House passes bill to preserve voting rights for new electors

Kyodo

The Lower House on Thursday passed a bill to enable people aged 18 or 19 to vote in the upcoming Upper House election even if they change their address shortly before the ballot.

While the country is set to lower its voting age to 18 from 20 on June 19, some 70,000 of the 2.4 million new voters were expected to become ineligible to vote as the current election system shuts out those who change their address less than three months before the election.

Since Japan’s academic year starts in April, many high school graduates tend to move in the spring to start further education or work, raising concerns that young people’s votes would subsequently be limited in the upcoming election just as the government seeks to raise their interest and participation in politics.

The latest bill, eyed to be enacted simultaneously with the voting age amendment, will remove that moratorium by allowing them to vote at their old address as long as they had lived there for three months or longer and four months or less have passed since they moved out.

Currently, municipal offices compile voters’ lists based on data of residents who live at the same address for more than three months. If the House of Councilors election is set for July 10, the list of voters will be set on June 22, the day before the official election campaign kicks off.

It means new voters aged 18 and 19 will not be registered in the voters list in either new or old municipalities of residence if they changed their address in the three months through June 22.

The bill that passed the House of Representatives on Thursday is expected to clear the upper chamber next week to become law.

On Tuesday, ruling and opposition parties agreed to quickly pass the bill to correct the legal flaw before the end of the month in order to give enough time for municipal election boards to prepare for the Upper House election.