Getting youngsters to vote in next year’s Upper House election may mean coaxing them to be more independent-minded once they leave the nest.
And with Japan welcoming 18- and 19-year-olds at ballot boxes next summer, the government is targeting high school students who leave home for university or other reasons to transfer their residence registries, so that they are able to vote in elections.
“We want people to vote in the first election held after they turn 18 — and continue to vote in the future,” a senior Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry official said. “Relocating the registry to their current address is the first step.”
Japanese citizens are given ballots by municipalities based on their resident registry, and the country’s basic resident register law requires people to transfer their registry when they move.
The Diet enacted legislation in June to lower the voting age to 18 from 20 — the biggest reform of the nation’s electoral laws in 70 years — in an attempt at encouraging younger voters to be more politically active.
But a recent survey by an get out-the-vote organization showed just a quarter of college students and others who live away from their families have transferred their registry to reflect actual addresses.
In a survey by Matsuyama, Ehime Prefecture’s election board, nearly 70 percent of college students in the area who abstained from voting in the April nationwide local elections listed not having a local registry as the reason.
Fearing a similarly low turnout among the new crop of young voters in next summer’s election, the internal affairs ministry is preparing to push ahead with voter education in high schools.
Some young people apparently fear that changing their registries would make them unable to attend their Coming of Age ceremonies in their hometowns, though this is untrue.
For others, another reason for not changing their registries is the national pension system — and the paperwork associated with joining once they turn 20. Since most wish to leave the complicated paperwork to their parents, they simply do not change their resident registries.
While some 2.4 million 18- and 19-year-olds will have the chance to join the electorate in next summer’s Upper House election, persuading them to take part remains a looming obstacle.
Along with giving out election-related materials and conducting mock polls this fall, the ministry also plans to have teachers explain to their students the importance of transferring resident registries, ministry officials said.
Informational posters about the Upper House election will also be put up in high schools and universities in March and April, when students graduate and enroll in universities, they said. Symposiums will give students a chance to glean more information about their first election.
As part of regular promotional activities, municipal governments will also use their websites to target high school students, urging them to change their registries via the Internet.