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Japan: Voting Age Lowered from 20 to 18

(June 24, 2015) The Public Office Election Law was amended by Japan’s legislature and promulgated on June 19, 2015 (Act No. 43 of 2015, text of the bill, House of Representatives website (in Japanese)). The amendment lowers the voting age from 20 to 18 years of age. The amended Law will be effective one year after the date of promulgation. (Id. Supp. Provisions, art. 1.) It will apply to the House of Councillors’ election in the summer of 2016 and add 2.4 million people aged 18 and 19 to the electorate. (Amended Public Office Election Act: Voting Age at 18 Years Old from 2016 House of Councillors’ Election, MAINICHI NEWSPAPER (June 17, 2015) (in Japanese).)

The minimum voting age for national referenda on constitutional amendments was previously lowered to 18 from 20 years of age by a 2014 amendment to the National Referendum Act (Act No. 51 of 2007, amended by Act No. 75 of 2014 (May 18, 2014), E-GOV (in Japanese).) A supplementary provision of the 2014 amendment act obligated the government to make an effort to lower the general voting age to the same age as the national referendum voting age. (Id. Supp. Provisions, art. 2.)

According to one news commentary, there is a need for the voice of young people to be reflected more in politics. Because the elderly have a higher turnout rate at elections and there are many older people in Japan, politicians have to espouse elder-friendly policies in order to win elections. It is feared that excessive favoring of the elderly will cause younger generations to unfairly suffer. (Why Will the Voting AgeBe 18 Years of Age?, NIKKEI (Mar. 7, 2015) (in Japanese).) In addition, the article points out, most other countries have set their minimum age for voting in elections at 18. (Id.)