National / Politics

Japan to test online voting for overseas citizens


The internal affairs ministry will test online voting for Japanese citizens living abroad in an effort to raise voter turnout among such people in elections.

The ministry will conduct the test after Sunday’s House of Councilors election with a goal of introducing it as early as the next Upper House poll in 2022, officials said.

Eligible voters will be able to enter the voting page using electronic devices by verifying their identity through registered My Number identification cards.

To protect privacy, voting data will be sent encrypted to Japan, and personal information attached to the data will be deleted when votes are counted. Voting data left on voter devices will also be deleted.

An expert panel set up by the ministry proposed the introduction of online voting in August last year to address low voter turnout, at around 20 percent, among Japanese citizens overseas.

The low rates are believed to reflect a shorter voting period due to the need to send votes to Japan as well as the need to go to diplomatic missions where polling stations are set up.

For the upcoming Upper House poll, the voting period at foreign diplomatic establishments ended on Monday.

The panel said online voting can be used for domestic voters if measures against cyberattacks and large-scale disasters are fully in place.

If the reliability of online voting improves on the back of its successful use overseas, calls for introducing it for domestic voters may rise.

But the prospect of online voting being introduced domestically is still uncertain, as many veteran lawmakers appear to want voters to write their names on voting slips.

For local elections, online voting using touch panel devices installed at voting stations has been possible since 2002.

But only 10 municipalities have actually introduced online voting, due to high leasing costs for the devices and a problem with devices used in the municipal assembly election for Kani, Gifu Prefecture, in 2003 that led to a Supreme Court ruling that nullified the election.

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