National

Reform school voters cast absentee ballots for Sunday's election

Kyodo

Eighteen- and 19-year-old boys from a reformatory in Chitose, Hokkaido, cast absentee ballots earlier this month for the July 10 Upper House election, a first for interned young people of that age.

Seven boys from Hokkai Reformatory who voted last Friday and Monday aid they felt satisfied having had a chance to take part in an election for the first time.

“I feel I have become an adult,” said one.

As the provisional polling station is not equipped with a ballot box, the young men sealed their ballots in an envelope, which they handed over to the principal.

The voters entered the polling station one by one to prevent other detainees from being able to view their personal information, such as ages and addresses.

Since they did not have access to information on the candidates and political parties at their school, staffers provided election pamphlets with the names and policies of the candidates, which the teenagers were allowed to read 15 minutes prior to voting.

In June, the school asked 18 young people eligible to take part in the election whether they intend to vote. The school then requested postal ballots from the election committees of electoral districts where they were registered.

“I voted in the hope the results will help make young people happy amid the graying and shrinking population,” a 19-year-old detainee told his supervisor.

According to the Justice Ministry, under the Public Offices Election Law, prisoners are not guaranteed the right to vote, but that right is granted to detainees placed in protective custody, such as those in reformatories and corrective institutions.

Absentee voting has taken place in reformatories in the past by detainees aged 20 and older. But, this is a first for detainees in a juvenile institution.

The absentee voting was also scheduled to take place in corrective institutions in the Hokkaido Prefecture cities of Sapporo, Asahikawa and Hakodate this week.

Fumihiko Onishi, an official at the Hokkai reformatory school, said he was surprised to see the young voters express a willingness to vote in the election.

Two 18-year-old detainees from a reformatory school for female juvenile offenders adjacent to the Hokkai reformatory also voted by absentee ballot on July 1.

The Justice Ministry said they were not aware how many young voters from reformatory schools across the country cast ballots.