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Efforts underway to boost Upper House poll voter turnout

Tokyo, June 28 (Jiji Press)–Local election boards across Japan are taking a variety of measures to boost voter turnout in the July 10 House of Councillors election, such as using the TikTok short video app to catch the eye of young voters and offering discount services for people who go to the polls.


The official campaign period for the triennial election for the upper chamber of the Diet, Japan’s parliament, began on Wednesday last week.


In the 2019 Upper House poll, Chiba in eastern Japan logged the 10th-lowest voter turnout among the country’s 47 prefectures. In particular, the percentage of registered voters who cast their ballots in the poll fell sharply from the previous 2016 election among Chiba residents aged 18-19 and those in the 20-24 age group, standing at 35.14 pct and 27.85 pct, respectively.


Alarmed by the situation, Chiba Prefecture’s election board, which has already been using Twitter and YouTube, started to make use of TikTok this time as well, creating an advertising video for the app to encourage people to vote in the upcoming election. It is also being aired at movie theaters in the prefecture, just before two anime movies popular among youths are screened.


“This time, we are focusing on young people to raise voter turnout,” Tatsuo Nakamura, a 42-year-old official of the Chiba election board, said.


Meanwhile, the “senkyowari” discount program started to spread in the nation about 10 years ago. It allows people to get discounts at stores participating in the initiative if they show a certificate proving that they have cast their ballots or a picture taken in front of the polling stations.


For the upcoming Upper House election, over 2,500 stores across the country are set to take part in the program, according to its operator, Senkyowari Inc.


The program is helpful in “prompting people who are not interested in elections to go to the polling stations and has synergy effects such as neighborhood revitalization,” Shotaro Sato, the 49-year-old head of the organization, said.


Kikuya Bunguten, a stationery store in the Shimokitazawa district in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward, which joined the discount program seven or eight years ago, is offering a 10 pct discount for any of its products to customers with a voting certificate from Thursday, the day after the start of the official campaign period, through the election day of July 10.


In Japan, early voting in public offices elections is allowed between the day after the campaign start and the day before the election.


For the week from July 11, the discount rate at Kikuya Bunguten will stay at 10 pct if voter turnout in Setagaya stands at 50 pct or less, but the rate will be raised to 20 pct if the turnout is between 51 pct and below 66 pct and to 30 pct on a turnout of 66 pct or higher.


On the reason for the stationery store’s participation in the discount program, Tomohiro Otsuka, its 57-year-old owner, said, “Many of my customers are students, and I wanted to use my store, which is familiar to them, to stimulate their interest in elections.”


“Senkyowari is not well known yet, and I want more and more young people to go to vote,” he said.

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