The Tokyo High Court ruled Wednesday that the 2.34 times disparity in the weight of votes seen in a single-seat constituency in Tokyo in the December House of Representatives election is unconstitutional.
The court, however, rejected the demand of plaintiffs that the election in the Tokyo No. 1 constituency be nullified, saying the Diet has taken steps to rectify the zoning of electoral districts to narrow the vote-value gap.
Presiding Judge Koichi Namba said the vote-value disparity in the December election is unconstitutional because the Diet “failed to correct (the allotment of constituencies) within a reasonable period of time” in the wake of a 2011 Supreme Court ruling.
The top court said in March 2011 the disparity of up to 2.3 times in the weight of votes in the 2009 Lower House election was “in a state of unconstitutionality.” The gap in the value of votes widened in the last general election to up to 2.43 times from 2.3.
On the 2009 poll, the Supreme Court said the disproportion stems from giving one single-district seat to all 47 prefectures before distributing another 253 seats to districts delineated by population.
This accounts for 300 of the 480 seats in the Lower House. The remaining 180 seats are filled through the proportional representation segment of the electoral system.
“The court cannot overlook the fact that the election was conducted without changing the zoning of the electoral districts, despite a strong warning” by the Supreme Court Grand Bench, Namba said.
But he said the high court did not nullify the December election, as the Diet enacted a bill last November to reduce the vote-value disparity by cutting the number of single-seat constituencies to 295 from 300.
The last general election was conducted with the same zoning of electoral districts as in the 2009 contest, as there was not enough time to impose the changes.
Immediately after the December poll, two groups of lawyers filed lawsuits with 14 high courts and their branches, arguing that a disparity of up to 2.43 times was unconstitutional and thus the election should be nullified.
Wednesday’s decision by the Tokyo High Court, the first among them, was made on a claim by a group led by Hidetoshi Masunaga, who is calling for the nullification of the Lower House election in 27 constituencies over vote-value disparities.
Other high courts are set to hand down by March 27 rulings on a total of 17 lawsuits filed by the lawyer groups.
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