In my previous post, one commenter asked how the Japanese handle election politics. As far as I know, voting in Japan is non-compulsory, elections are held on a Saturday, and they use first past the post (though I’m not sure about this). I don’t follow politics here much, but I think Japan could probably be safely said to be suffering a crisis of legitimacy in its political leadership, having brought the popular political notion of “tweedledum and tweedledee” to new heights (the two main parties are splinters of each other). Nonetheless turnout can be quite high by the standards of these things; it was 58% for the Tokyo gubernatorial election in March 2011. I think for national elections it is much lower, and there is a rural gerrymander (a typical problem of single member representative systems); this gerrymander is part of the reason for the continued practice of whaling in international waters.

As a consequence of this typical problem of non-compulsory voting systems, the Japanese electoral commission used a typically Japanese campaign to get more people to vote: they got a group of idols dressed as schoolgirls to run a cheerleading campaign for voting, that can be seen here. The actual campaign starts at  about 20 seconds. This was running non-stop on the trains here up until the election, and its main theme is that voting isn’t just for the day; you can pre-vote for up to 14 days before, and I think they also mention postal voting. It’s hilariously cute, especially the way after the girls run to the front to talk their head bobbles about, doing nothing for a moment or two. I saw this video soooo many times during my daily commute… I think  in addition to advertising pre-poll voting it also served the secondary use of generally reminding people to vote: one at least has the benefit of sharing a polling booth with a schoolgirl.

This shows the problem of non-compulsory voting and the way it creates biased samples very nicely. Will this advert appeal to all sections of society equally well? If not, will it function to raise representation in some groups relative to others? If so, you have created a biased sample of your community. Unless you put a chip in everyone’s head to accurately read their voting preferences, you can’t be sure that your sample is unbiassed. Maybe they’ll try that next time around… or maybe someone will suggest making it compulsory, as the next best option…