A revised election law lowering the minimum age to vote in Japan to 18 from 20 took effect Sunday, in a change that will be applied to the upcoming House of Councillors election. The change means approximately 2.4 million new voters aged 18 and 19 joined the electorate in a reform to better reflect young people’s opinions in politics. There were about 104.2 million voters as of the last national poll—a House of Representatives election in December 2014. Amendments to the Public Offices Election Law changed the voting age for the first time in 70 years, or since 1946 when the minimum voting age was lowered to 20 from 25. People who will be 18 by July 11, the day after the July 10 upper house election, will be able to vote in that poll.
Since parliament passed the amendments a year ago, the government has promoted “voter education” among young people by distributing brochures to high schools across Japan explaining the electoral process and holding events such as “mock elections.”
Last October, the education ministry also began allowing high school students aged 18 or older to engage in political activities and election campaigns, lifting a ban imposed in 1969.
The amendments also include a provision enabling voters to cast their ballots for national and local elections at polling stations to be set up at train stations and commercial complexes such as shopping malls, in a bid to combat declining voter turnouts.