Photo/IllutrationA voter casts a ballot at a polling station in Tokyo’s Chuo Ward on July 21. (Kazutaka Eguchi)

Turnout for the July 21 Upper House election was expected to fall under 50 percent for the first time in 24 years.

An estimate made by The Asahi Shimbun calculated a turnout of about 48.11 percent as of 8 p.m.

That is close to 7 percentage points lower than the 54.7-percent turnout of the last Upper House election in 2016.

The turnout estimate could become the second lowest on record, following that of the 1995 Upper House election.

The low turnout occurred despite record early voting.

Early voting for the Upper House election, which started July 5, a day after election campaigning began, ended on July 20 with a record 17,062,771 votes cast. The figure was an increase of about 1.08 million votes compared to the 2016 Upper House election, according to the internal affairs ministry.

The number accounts for 16.01 percent of all voters.