A Japanese court has found an election law provision denying prisoners the right to vote in a national poll is constitutional, in the latest ruling in a series of lawsuits filed over the controversial issue. The Hiroshima District Court on Wednesday rejected a claim by a prison inmate in his 50s who sought the right to vote on the grounds the election law contravenes the Constitution, which guarantees the “inalienable right” to choose public officials. “We cannot say it is against the Constitution,” presiding Judge Masayuki Suenaga said in the ruling, adding there is a “certain degree of reasonableness” in the restrictions set by Article 11 of the Public Offices Election Law, which says imprisoned individuals cannot vote.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff from Okayama Prefecture began serving his term in 2007 in a prison in Hiroshima. After being denied the opportunity to vote in the 2014 Lower House election, he filed the lawsuit in September 2015, seeking that the right to vote be recognized by the next national election and ¥1.2 million in compensation.
But the district court said it is reasonable to limit the voting rights of inmates as a “sanction that comes along with a criminal sentence,” which is served in a facility “segregated from society.”
The plaintiff’s lawyers said later in the day that they will consider whether to appeal against the ruling, arguing that excluding inmates from elections by thinking that they cannot exercise their voting right properly “is out of date.”