Clause that restricts voting of Japanese nationals abroad ruled unconstitutional
Published September 14th 2005 in Mainichi Daily
The Public Offices Election Law clause that allows Japanese nationals living abroad to vote in only proportional representation elections is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

For the first time in history, the top court recognized the legislature's negligence, and ordered the government to pay a combined 60,000 yen in state redress to 15 plaintiffs. This is the seventh time that the Supreme Court declared a provision in a law unconstitutional.

Twelve of the 14 Grand Bench justices agreed that the provision is unconstitutional, while 11 justices supported the order that the plaintiffs be granted state redress.

With the ruling, the Diet is required to revise the Public Offices Election Law before the next Diet election, to allow Japanese people living abroad to vote also in electoral districts.

In 1998, the law was revised to allow Japanese nationals abroad, who had been totally barred from voting in elections in Japan, to cast their ballots only in proportional representation systems of both houses of the Diet.

The 13 plaintiffs, two of whom subsequently came home, launched the suit in 1996, prior to the law amendment, asking the Tokyo District Court to declare that the clause that does not allow Japanese nationals living abroad to vote in Diet elections was unconstitutional.

They also demanded state redress for not being allowed to vote in the October 1996 general election.

The plaintiffs claimed that it is unconstitutional for the government to bar them from voting in elections only because they were living abroad.

The state countered by saying that the ban was an unavoidable measure to prevent confusion during elections.

The Tokyo District Court and the Tokyo High Court sided with the government. The plaintiffs then appealed the rulings to the top court. (Mainichi)