Japan lowers voting age from 20 to 18 to better reflect young people's opinions in policies

Japan's minimum voting age has been lowered from 20 to 18 in the first such revision since universal suffrage was introduced in the country in 1945.
Japan's minimum voting age has been lowered from 20 to 18 in the first such revision since universal suffrage was introduced in the country in 1945.PHOTO: REUTERS

TOKYO (Japan News/Asia News Network) - Japan's minimum voting age has been lowered from 20 to 18 in the first such revision since universal suffrage was introduced in the country in 1945.

A revised election law lowering the minimum age took effect on Sunday (June 19), creating approximately 2.4 million new voters aged 18 and 19 in a reform to better reflect young people's opinions in politics. 

The change will be applied to the upcoming Upper House election on July 10.

Newly enfranchised voters in the Upper House election must have been born before July 11, 1998, and are estimated to account for about 2 per cent of all eligible voters.

The new minimum voting age will also be applicable to local elections whose official announcements come after the official announcement of the upper house election. A mayoral election will be announced for Ukiha, Fukuoka Prefecture, on June 26, and one for Hino, Shiga Prefecture, on June 28.

If at least two candidates run in these elections, voting will take place on July 3 for both elections. The mayoral elections will thus likely be the first opportunities for 18 and 19- year-olds to cast their ballots.

The revised election law also allows local governments to set up polling stations at railway stations and commercial facilities so that eligible voters can cast their ballots at places other than designated polling stations. Local governments also can extend voting hours for early voting by advancing the opening of polling stations by as much as two hours and delaying the closing by up to two hours.

Besides obtaining the right to vote, 18- and 19-year-olds will also become qualified to take part in such procedures as the national review of Supreme Court justices and referendums to recall local assemblies.

But teenage Japanese will still have to wait for a little longer when it comes to other civic activities like jury duty as well as to drink and smoke legally.

The minimum age for these activities remains unchanged at 20.