• Kyodo

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Three Japanese high courts on Wednesday rejected lawsuits seeking to invalidate the July Upper House election due to its vote weight disparity but gave differing opinions on the constitutionality of the disparity itself.

The Miyazaki Branch of the Fukuoka High Court ruled that the maximum disparity of 3.08 times between the most- and least-populated constituencies in the July 10 House of Councilors’ election was “constitutional,” while the Akita Branch of the Sendai High Court and the Hiroshima High Court ruled the disparity was “in a state of unconstitutionality.”

At the Hiroshima court, presiding Judge Koji Ikuno said, “The imbalance in vote weight was at a level of significant inequality that raises issues of unconstitutionality.” He added it is appropriate to give the Diet one more chance to resolve the problem.

The Akita branch’s presiding judge, Kazunori Yamada, said the maximum disparity did not constitute a violation of the Constitution, citing efforts were made to narrow it.

In the morning, the Miyazaki branch’s presiding judge, Tomoichiro Nishikawa, ruled the maximum disparity was constitutional, saying it was “at a level that cannot be ignored” but not one that raises issues of unconstitutionality.

The vote weight disparity in the July election narrowed from a maximum of 4.77 times in the previous Upper House election in 2013, with the Diet having acted to merge two pairs of less-populated prefectures into two constituencies in response to a 2014 Supreme Court ruling calling for efforts to amend the difference.

Four other rulings have been issued by high courts since Friday on the validity of the election. Of them, two said the maximum disparity was “in a state of unconstitutionality” while another two said it was “constitutional.” All similarly rejected calls for the election outcome to be invalidated.

The cases are among a total of 16 lawsuits that have been filed by two groups of lawyers, seeking to invalidate the July 10 election on the grounds that the vote weight disparity violated the “one person, one vote” principle.

The last high court ruling in the series of lawsuits is scheduled to be issued on Nov. 8 by the Nagoya High Court.

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