Eighteen-year-olds will likely soon be able to vote and participate in political activities in Japan, but this may have some young people wondering: If it’s legal for an 18-year-old to go out campaigning, is it legal for that person’s 17-year-old friend to join them? Amendments to the Public Offices Election Act lowering the voting age to 18 are expected to pass the Diet on June 17, in time to allow some high school students to vote in next summer’s House of Councillors election. As such, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports Science and Technology are scrambling to develop educational materials for these soon-to-be voters. The materials won’t cover just the basics of the electoral process and casting ballots, but also provide concrete examples of and warnings against elections law violations.
For example, it will be perfectly all right for 18-year-olds to retweet quotes and messages from the Twitter accounts of candidates they want to win. For someone 17-years-old and under, however, that retweet could run afoul of the elections law.
It will also be legal for an 18-year-old to record a candidate’s speech on their smartphone and then share the video on the Internet. Not so for 17-and-unders.