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Central, local govts must take steps to address low turnout among voters

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe central and local governments must take the lower voter turnout seriously and implement further measures.

Voter turnout for the House of Councillors election fell below 50 percent for the first time in 24 years.

The current political situation, in which the Liberal Democratic Party alone is becoming stronger and the opposition parties have yet to make their presence felt, has made voters disinclined to go to polling stations. However, if one in two people does not vote, the foundation of democracy may be shaken.

What stands out is the low interest among young people. According to a sampling survey, voter turnout among people aged 18 and 19 for the election was 31.33 percent, or 15 percentage points lower than in the previous upper house election in 2016. When looking only at 19-year-olds, voter turnout was below the 30 percent line.

In the previous upper house election, when 18- and 19-year-olds’ right to vote was implemented for the first time, efforts were made to teach them about the meaning and mechanisms of voting, such as through mock elections and lectures at school. Three years have passed, and the enthusiasm at schools seems to be fading. Education to enhance the awareness of young voters must be improved.

Under the new curriculum guidelines, “public affairs” will be introduced as a compulsory subject at high schools starting in fiscal 2022. Students will learn in these classes about matters connected to real issues, such as the nation’s various systems and national security, so they can think about them as issues that affect their lives.

Fiscal reconstruction and reform of the social security system will affect the future of the younger generations. Instruction should be devised from a long-term perspective, so children will be interested in society and public administration at an early stage.

Make it easy to cast ballots

Quite a few students keep their residence registry in their hometowns even after moving to other places, such as universities. Absentee voting is troublesome, and this has been pointed out as a factor in why students do not vote. It is necessary to urge students to move their residence registries.

It is important to create an environment in which everyone can vote easily.

Due to such factors as a decrease in the population, the number of polling stations nationwide has decreased by about 10 percent from its peak. Transportation to polling stations must be secured, such as shuttle bus services and use of taxis. Elderly people who cannot get around could be urged to vote by mail. Local governments must show detailed consideration.

Early voting is on the rise, with a total of 17.06 million people casting ballots through early voting. This figure represents about 16 percent of all eligible voters.

An increasing number of municipalities have polling stations at such locations as shopping centers, universities and train stations, in addition to public facilities. These moves should be expanded.

Elections are meaningful when voting is based on candidates’ and political parties’ assertions. This should be kept in mind when one casts an early vote. Local governments should make utmost efforts to promptly distribute official election information papers.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry plans to test an internet voting system for eligible voters living abroad this fiscal year. Individual Number Cards are used to confirm the identity of voters. Could this be applied to domestic voting? The government should continue studying this voting system, including measures to prevent wrongdoing.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 31, 2019)Speech



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