National / Politics

Diet approves setting up polling stations at railway stations, shopping malls

Kyodo

The Diet on Wednesday enacted a law that allows voters to cast ballots in national and local elections at booths at train stations and commercial complexes such as shopping malls.

The government-sponsored bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law passed an Upper House plenary session with cross-party support from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner, Komeito, as well as the Democratic Party and other opposition parties.

It is seen as a bid to boost voter turnout. The revised law also enables local governments to extend polling hours for people who wish to vote outside regular hours. Under the amended legislation, local governments can open polling stations by up to two hours earlier from the current start time of 8:30 a.m. or close them up to two hours later than the regular 8 p.m. close.

The revision takes effect on June 19, in time for this summer’s Upper House election.

The revised law allows local authorities to set up “common voting stations” on election days in high-traffic locations such as train stations, shopping centers and other public facilities, in addition to current polling stations.

At present, people are allowed to vote on an election day at only one place, usually a school or public office in the neighborhood where they live. The location is designated by election administration authorities.

In some municipalities, people can cast votes at commercial complexes and other places in advance, but not on the voting day itself.

Also starting June 19, the voting age will be lowered to 18 from the current 20. This will make about 2.4 million 18- and 19-year-old people eligible to vote.