Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Court rules Aug. poll not constitutional

"OSAKA--The Osaka High Court ruled Monday that August's House of Representatives election was unconstitutional because the disparity in the value of votes cast in single-seat constituencies reached 2.3-to-1, but rejected the plaintiff's demand that the election be annulled.

"This was the first time a court declared a lower house election to be unconstitutional since the 1994 introduction of the current election system, comprising single-seat constituencies and proportional representation.

"A man of Mino, Osaka Prefecture, had filed a lawsuit with the high court, demanding the prefectural election committee nullify the election results and rerun the poll because the disparity in the relative weight of votes cast in single-seat constituencies was unconstitutionally high.

"Presiding Judge Kitaru Narita agreed that the disparity went against the top law, saying in a ruling read out by another judge, "It's unacceptable in light of the Constitution regarding how the legislative body should be to leave the disparity above two, as it was [in the election]."

"But the judge rejected the plaintiff's demand to annul the poll on the grounds that revoking the election result would "seriously harm the public interest" and would not serve the public welfare.

"Similar lawsuits have been filed at seven other high courts and high court branches. The Osaka prefectural election board is set to appeal Monday's ruling.

"A law on a panel to be set up to determine single-seat constituencies in lower house elections--which was enacted when the two-tiered election system was introduced--stipulates that constituencies should be zoned so the vote value disparity does not exceed 2-to-1.

"In an attempt to fairly distribute seats covering depopulated areas, each of the nation's 47 prefectures were given one of the 300 single-seat constituency seats. The remainder of the seats were then distributed based on the size of each prefecture's population. This resulted in the vote disparity between sparsely and densely populated districts exceeding 2-to-1 from the beginning.

"The judge said, "It should be interpreted that the Constitution seeks complete equality of voter rights and calls for the equalization of the value of votes."

"The judge added the current system that first allotted one seat to each prefecture "was rational and considerably effective as an improvement measure during a transition period to improve the previously significant disparity.

"But this system now goes against the purpose of the Constitution."

"In the Aug. 30 poll, each ballot cast in Kochi Constituency No. 3, which had the smallest number of votes cast, was worth 2.3 times each vote cast in Chiba Constituency No. 4, which had the most voters.

"The gap between Kochi Constituency No. 3 and Osaka Constituency No. 9, in which the plaintiff lives, stood at 2.05-to- 1. The weight of a vote in 45 of the 300 single-seat constituencies was half or less than that of a vote in Kochi Constituency No. 3."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (12/29/2009), Link to article (last visited 1/7/2010)

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