Ministry mulling update to braille voting system

Yomiuri Shimbun file photo
People prepare the braille edition of an election bulletin for a House of Representatives election in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo in October 2017.

The government is considering updating braille voting systems out of consideration for election candidates who are naturalized Japanese citizens and do not have Japanese names, and political parties that use letters from the alphabet in their names.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry intends to introduce the changes as early as spring after obtaining Cabinet approval by the end of this fiscal year, according to sources.

Japanese characters that can be used in braille voting are listed in an appended table of the Public Offices Election Law. The appendix, which was compiled in 1950, also includes options for several combinations of kana characters, such as those for the sounds “kya,” “kyu,” “kyo,” “ja,” “ju” and “jo,” but not many of the syllables correspond to pronunciations commonly used in foreign languages.

For example, the current system does not have a character that corresponds to the “vi” sound, which is not commonly used in Japanese. Instead, the kana character that corresponds to the “bi” sound is used. The revision will add braille that corresponds to the 26 letters in the English alphabet, as well as kana characters that correspond to syllables often used in foreign languages, such as “vi.”

If the ministry proceeds with the plans, it will be the first revision of the appendix under the current electoral system.

In the House of Councillors election in July 2019, about 6,700 ballots were cast using the braille voting system, which allows visually impaired people to type the names of the candidate and the political party they want to vote for on their voter slips with a braille device.