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Apple-tab-span {white-space:pre} It has been a question whether the lower voter turnout rate challenge that strikes Japan will be managed or continue to be uncontrollable. As the declining trends in voting come to be an easily observable phenomena in most of the democratic countries, Japan recorded the lowest turnout rate of 53% in the recent election held in 2017 lower by 15% than the average of other OECD countries. With the diversification of information technology, a new concept of electronic voting system also known as e-voting was introduced. Since 2002, Japan implemented the electronic voting system in hope of increasing the number of the ballots. Despite Japan laid greater stress on adopting new electoral method and providing a better voting environment, several evidence suggests that this new method appears to be inefficient in Japan and would still keep the turnout rate low for years.

  To briefly introduce the election methods that Japan is currently adopting to, there are three election types: general elections to the House of Representatives, elections to the House Councillors, and last but not least local elections. Among the elections, the prime minister election (House of Representatives election) comes to be the most important election, and yet the turnout rate of this election has recently been lower than 55%. The average turnout rate right after the war was around 70 percent for a decade and then it started to decline drastically furthermore. The highest turnout was only about 69.28% in the 2009 parliamentary election that the first victory won by the opposite party since WW2 and the lowest turnout was  52.66% in 2014 Lower House election.

Japan eventually attained the second lowest turnout rate of 53.6% since WW2 in the 2017 House of Representative election lower than other OECD countries’ average turnout rate of 69 percent.   In spite of the ideal model of the e-voting system, it becomes invalid in Japan due to growing numbers of unwilling voters. As is apparent in existing poor electoral turnout rate in Japan, the government virtually devoted to find ways to increase the number of ballots through advancing the new informational technology. One of the methods was implementing electoral voting system that possibly promotes the better electoral environment. E-voting was introduced as a new conception of voting system with using electronic means or internet service to reduce the burdens of minority shareholder’s insecurity and inaccessibility, instead of to enhance cost-effectiveness, accuracy and privacy.

Simply, e-voting allows all voters enjoying their rights to vote without visiting the designated polling station and counts the ballots faster and cheaper. As Japan has been struggling with lower rate of the turnout, adopting electronic voting system seemed to be propitious in solving the voters’ deficient electoral behaviour and generating a better image of time and cost efficient election. The usefulness or the efficiency of e-voting is measured with various attributes such as effectiveness of voting management, reduced voter cost and more practically, encouraging citizen political engagement. Utilisation of e-voting in 2001 in Japan for first time, there were only 13.4% voters reported to be satisfied with e-voting method.

Notwithstanding its effectiveness, it is quite evident to draw a conclusion that e-voting system has not been helpful in terms of improving election participation as the turnout rate in Japan is continuously falling.  By comparing Japan to South Korea, It becomes more obvious in a sense that lower voter turnout rate is not a result of lack of technological advancement rather a voting incentive issue. South Korea is a democratic country that has not yet implemented e-voting system as it concerns the security issue as well as the quality of representation of the election over its turnout rate. South Korea manages to sustain the average rate of 70% or higher for the last 10 years presidential election. The average turnout rate in Korea higher than the OECD average implies that Korean citizens in general feel more hope in change of their incumbent government through facing radical changes in politics. Speaking of my experience over the impeachment of president Park and the 19th Korean presidential election, there was a dramatic political shift which I believe as a main motive moving all voters to vote. I had faith that the only way to change current political turmoil was by the election and I felt responsibility as a Korean citizen to take the 19th election more prudently.

The other factors contributing higher turnout rate in Korea are triggered by the better voting environments in terms of time efficient election, easier access as well as voter registration; because the polling stations were easily found anywhere during the 19th presidential election, going to the polling station did not take more than 5 minutes walking from my home and less than 2 minutes to vote. Thus, the poor voter turnout rate in Japan is evident enough to depict voters’ interests have been waned since WW2. At an estimation, almost half of the generations living in the post war periods in Japan are unlikely or unwilling to vote; most of young Japanese seemed to be indifferent when I asked them about the election. This social behaviour induces two scenarios. First is that, the average Japanese voters lack incentives since they feel their participation does not have any effect on public sphere.

They absorbed a lesson from the previous election that their ballot is not powerful enough to make a difference or a change. Second, the voters lack option as there is no candidate that they want to vote for. Indeed, they are disappointed with the incumbent government when there is no other better alternate party to vote for.  Proponents of e-voting insists that applying new technology will produce more favourable outcomes in any situation while the lower voter turnout rate in Japan proves it wrong. The efficiency of the new electoral method appears to be almost invalid in Japan in the last few decades. As the more citizens become indifferent and unwilling in voting, the turnout rate remained low regardless of the ideal model of e-voting system. South Korea’s higher turnout rate of 77.

2% in 2017 without adopting the e-voting system emphasises that Japan has never been experiencing a technical side problem instead the voters lack incentives to vote. Therefore, a new electoral method of e-voting does not do much with voting participating unless there is a substantial change in its disappointing politics.