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Teen voter turnout falls below national rate again

In this Oct. 20, 2017 file photo, voting-age high school students cast ballots at an advance polling station in their school, in Minamiawaji, Hyogo Prefecture. (Mainichi)

The voter turnout among 18- and 19-year-olds in the Oct. 22 general election reached just 50.74 percent and 32.34 percent, respectively, according to Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications survey figures released on Oct. 24.

The Oct. 22 poll was the first House of Representatives election 18- and 19-year-olds could participate in since the legal voting age was reduced from 20 to 18 in 2016. In total, the teen voter turnout for single-seat constituencies was 41.51 percent (preliminary figure) -- significantly under the 53.68-percent overall turnout.

The numbers fit the pattern seen in the July 2016 House of Councillors election, in which an internal affairs ministry survey of all electoral districts found that 51.28 percent of 18-year-olds had voted, as did 42.30 percent of 19-year-olds, for a total of 46.78 percent -- below the 54.70 percent national turnout rate.

The turnout gap between 18- and 19-year-olds "is probably because people who are 19 don't change their official residence registrations from their parents' address when they go off to university or to find a job," a senior internal affairs ministry official speculated. However, that gap rose to 18.40 points in the most recent election from the 8.98-point difference seen in 2016, and the ministry is looking to boost education on voter sovereignty and increase awareness of the absentee ballot system to improve turnout.

The ministry survey covered four single-seat constituencies in each of the country's 47 prefectures, for a total of 188. In total, it tracked the election participation of 12,327 people aged 18 and 19. The survey found no significant difference in turnout based on gender, with 41.07 percent of men and 41.97 percent of women in the target age group casting ballots.

The ministry will release the results of a survey of all electoral districts in the lower house election in November.

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