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Japanese court questions July election result over vote-value gap

Plaintiffs' lawyers head to the Sapporo High Court on Oct. 24, 2019 for a ruling on a vote-value gap in July's upper house election. (Kyodo)

SAPPORO (Kyodo) -- A Japanese court ruled Thursday that July's upper house election was in a "state of unconstitutionality" due to a disparity of up to 3.00 times in the value of a vote between the most and least-populated constituencies.

But the Sapporo High Court rejected the demand of a 45-year-old male voter in the city that election results in northern Japan's Hokkaido district be nullified.

"The imbalance in vote weight at the time of the election was at a level of significant inequality that raises issues of unconstitutionality," Presiding Judge Kazuhiko Tomita said.

Thursday's ruling was the second related to the July 21 election after two groups of lawyers filed suits with 14 high courts and their branches across Japan.

On Oct. 16, the Takamatsu High Court ruled the disparity was "in a state of unconstitutionality," but turned down the demand of three other plaintiffs to void results in three districts on the western island of Shikoku.

In the July election, Miyagi Prefecture had the largest number of voters per seat, while Fukui Prefecture had the least. In Hokkaido, the vote weight gap was 2.33.

The overall vote disparity was reduced from 3.08 in the previous upper house election in 2016, after Japan's parliament passed legislation in 2018 to narrow such gaps by adding six seats to the chamber and redrawing constituencies.

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