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Rules fixed for new voters deprived of chance to cast ballot due to changes of address

Kyodo

A law addressing a flaw in Japan’s voting rules was enacted in the Diet Thursday ahead of the lowering of the voting age to 18 from 20, ensuring new voters will not miss the chance to cast ballots just because they have changed their addresses before an election.

The revised Public Offices Election Law is expected to go into force on June 19, when the voting age will also be lowered. The rules are likely to be first applied to an Upper House election scheduled in the summer.

The House of Councilors passed a bill to revise the law on Thursday after the House of Representatives cleared it last week.

According to a government estimate, some 70,000 of the 2.4 million new voters aged 18 or 19 were expected to become ineligible to vote in the Upper House election as voting rules had prevented those who move to a different municipality less than three months before an election from casting a ballot.

Since Japan’s academic year runs from April to March, many high school graduates tend to move in the spring to start further education or work. That has raised concerns that the number of votes cast by young people would be limited in the upcoming election, while the government seeks to raise their interest in and increase their participation in politics.

The latest revision will allow people who have moved to different municipalities to vote in their old municipalities as long as they had lived in the latter for at least three months, but no longer than four months have passed since they moved out.

If, as floated by some political pundits, the Upper House election is set for July 10 with official campaigning starting on June 23, voters who move out on March 23 or later would have been deprived of their chance to vote if the law had not been revised.

The voting age in Japan was last changed in 1945, when it was lowered to 20 from 25.