Photo/IllutrationLawyer Hidetoshi Masunaga holds up a sign welcoming the ruling outside of the Takamatsu High Court on Oct. 16. (Haruto Hiraoka)

TAKAMATSU--A high court here on Oct. 16 ruled the July 21 Upper House election was held in “a state of unconstitutionality” because the Diet’s reapportionment effort for the chamber last year was inadequate.

Two groups of lawyers filed lawsuits in 14 high courts or their branches around Japan, calling the vote unconstitutional because of the inequality in the value of a vote between the least and most populated districts per Upper House member.

The Takamatsu High Court ruling was the first ruling, but it did not say the election was unconstitutional.

It also rejected demands to invalidate the election results in three prefectural districts in Shikoku, including one that combines the prefectures of Tokushima and Kochi into one because of their small populations.

After all 14 rulings are issued, the Supreme Court is expected to make a unified decision on all the appeals before the end of 2020.

Based on voter numbers released by the internal affairs ministry, the vote disparity between the Fukui Prefecture district, which had the smallest number of voters per Upper House member, and the Miyagi Prefecture district, which had the largest number of voters per Upper House member, was 3.00 times.

Regarding the three districts covered in the latest lawsuit, the disparity was 1.28 times for the Kagawa Prefecture district, 1.80 times for the Ehime Prefecture district and 1.93 times for the combined Tokushima-Kochi district.

In past Supreme Court decisions, the top court ruled the 2013 Upper House election to be held in “a state of unconstitutionality” because the vote disparity was 4.77 times.

But when the combined prefecture district system was introduced for the 2016 election, the disparity of 3.08 times was ruled constitutional.

The Diet in 2018 passed a revision to the Public Offices Election Law that added six seats to the Upper House. To reduce vote disparity, Saitama Prefecture was given two of those seats.

But the revision also added four seats to the proportional representation constituency, a move that did nothing to address vote disparity.

Moreover, it allowed parties to specifically designate candidates in the proportional representation constituency for preference in winning seats regardless of how many votes those candidates received individually.

In the proportional representation constituency, voters can write in either the name of the party or an individual candidate. Individual candidates are awarded seats in the order of the number of personal votes.

The total number of seats awarded to a party is determined by the combined votes received by the party and individual candidates.

(This article was written by Kodai Kinoshita and Takashi Endo.)