National

Expats turning out to cast ballots

Kyodo

A Japanese businessman and his wife in New Jersey traveled to New York City on Sunday to cast their ballots for the July 11 House of Councilors election, taking advantage of relaxed election rules for expatriates that saw many of their compatriots turn out to vote.

The businessman from Tokyo’s Suginami Ward, identifying himself only as Ueno, said he has been in the United States for three years, but this is the first time he has cast his ballot in person.

“It would have been nicer if the ballot boxes were at locations like Mitsuwa,” he said, referring to the giant supermarket in Edgewater, N.J.

But he said he and his wife were happy to vote in person instead of voting by mail, which has been available for national elections since May 2000 following a revision to the election law in 1998.

The Upper House election is the first national poll in which voters living abroad for extended periods can either cast their ballots by mail or go to polling stations at Japanese consulates general around the world.

Another man, who had just cast his ballot at the Japanese Consulate General in the UBS Building adjacent to the famous Waldorf-Astoria hotel, said: “It’s convenient. I did not have to wait.”

The man, who identified himself only as an employee of a Japanese company, said he has lived in the United States for 13 years and his life there “has raised my interest in politics in Japan.”

Under the present election law, expats can vote only for the proportional representation segments of both chambers of the Diet.

Diplomat Takato Furutachi said the consulate made extra efforts to ensure trouble-free balloting at the mission by mobilizing 32 people in the morning and in the afternoon during a 10-day voting period starting June 25.

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