It may seem fairly obvious, but only those people who fulfil particular requirements are given voting rights in an election. In Japan, voters must be Japanese citizens aged 20 or over and have a registered address in a municipality within a relevant electoral district for more than three months. According to the Public Offices Elections Law, exploiting this requirement by moving one’s residential registration to another municipality — just on paper — for the purpose of voting, while continuing to reside in an original municipality, is illegal. But this kind of electoral fraud is a prevalent and deeply rooted problem in the Japanese electoral process.
So how is this sort of electoral fraud actually committed? Cases where a candidate or supporters ask relatives and friends living in other municipalities to move their registration to the candidate’s own address, or that of their electoral offices, are the most common. There are other obviously shady cases, such as one instance where 202 people were registered as ‘living’ at an address of only 240 square metres, or another instance where a large number of staff members ‘lived’ in a teppanyaki restaurant. There is one case where the massive influx of people into a municipality some months before election increased the municipality’s population by more than 10 per cent.
Why is this sort of electoral fraud possible? Not all municipalities hold their elections on the same day, making it is easy enough for someone to move their address from a municipality that doesn’t hold an election to another municipality that does. More importantly, the paperwork required to change one’s address is extremely simple in Japan. A required form must be submitted within 14 days of moving, but no proof of residence is required. It is even possible to ask someone else to submit the form on your behalf. In one reported case, an agent abused this procedure and submitted the change-of-address form for up to 128 people in a day.
Full Article: Detecting electoral fraud in Japan | East Asia Forum.