Awareness of each vote’s importance vital to preventing election errors

Votes will be cast in the House of Representatives election 17 days after the dissolution of the lower house, the shortest such period under the current Constitution. With limited time and manpower, local governments need to devise ways to ensure the election is managed smoothly.

An election commission handles a wide range of tasks, from securing polling stations and vote-counting venues and recruiting and assigning staff, to printing and sending out tickets that allow voters to enter polling stations. It is necessary to prevent mistakes and irregularities in every part of the election process, not just when counting votes.

Mistakes in election procedures have been increasing in recent years, including handing out incorrect voting slips and incorrectly identifying voters. There were 200 errors related to the 2019 House of Councillors election, the highest number in any national election since 2000.

In the 2017 lower house election, an irregularity occurred in which election officials in Koka, Shiga Prefecture, padded the number of blank vote slips so that the number of votes counted would match the number of voters recorded to have showed up. If this kind of incident continues, the trust in elections that is the foundation of democracy will be lost.

Mistakes have already been made in connection with the current election, due to insufficient checking.

The Hiroshima prefectural election commission misspelled the name of a judge on the voting slips for the national review of Supreme Court judges to be held along with the lower house election, and the commission had to reprint the slips. The election commission of Isesaki, Gunma Prefecture, said it sent out postcards allowing entry to polling stations with an incorrect map of polling stations on them.

Some municipalities may be in disarray because the lower house election was scheduled earlier than expected, but the prevention of mistakes must be ensured.

With the number of local government officials decreasing due to population decline, it will not be easy for local governments to maintain a system in which election-related tasks can be conducted quickly and accurately.

Local governments have to think deeply about ways to develop personnel after the retirement of experienced staff, and about how to improve the skills of officials who work on an election commission and in other departments concurrently.

The most important task is counting votes, which directly affects the outcome of an election. Tokyo’s Itabashi Ward is pairing veteran staff who have experience and can handle problems with younger staff so that the younger staffers can receive guidance when difficulties arise. The ward government is also seeking cooperation from retired officials.

The city government of Chiba is likewise using retired officials as polling station managers.

It is also important to improve the proficiency of staff through training and rehearsal. Making them aware of the importance of elections and the value of each vote will certainly help prevent mistakes.

The lower house election will be the first nationwide election to be held during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Thorough infection control measures must be taken at polling stations and vote-counting venues.

Voting by mail is now possible for people who are recuperating from COVID-19 at home and elsewhere. This system must be well publicized.