The House of Representatives unanimously approved a bill Tuesday to allow physically disabled people who cannot write without assistance to vote by letting a proxy fill in their ballots.
The bill, an amendment to the Public Offices Election Law, will be enacted during the current Diet session and take effect within one year.
The law will pave the way for some 130,000 physically disabled people nationwide to vote. At present, they cannot cast ballots because they are unable to write the names of candidates by themselves.
While the current election law allows for accepting votes that are mailed in by people with severe physical disabilities, it requires that voters must handwrite candidates’ names on the ballot.
The new law will also allow those who receive home-care services to vote by mail. Government officials said some 120,000 people who currently receive nursing-care services will be able to mail in their ballots.
The revision came after the Tokyo District Court ruled in November that the government’s refusal to accept mail-in votes written on behalf of physically disabled people who cannot write unaided violates voting rights and is unconstitutional. The court urged lawmakers to revise the election law, although it rejected the damages suit filed by three people requesting a total of 2.7 million yen in compensation from the government.
The plaintiffs included people with Lou Gehrig’s disease, which causes sufferers to eventually lose motor control and become paralyzed.
The Democratic Party of Japan submitted a bill to revise the election law to the Diet in April, and the ruling coalition drew up similar legislation in June. After discussions by the two sides, the bill was presented to a Lower House committee.
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