18 his permanent domicile.

In document Japan's first general election, 1890 (Page 72-79)

The governor of a fu or ken was responsible for the overall supervision of elections held within the territory under his jurisdiction. These governors had been appointed

by, and were answerable to, the Minister for the Home Office. Yamagata had been in charge of the Home Office from December I885 to May 1890 when he was replaced by Saigo Tsugumichi; and he had had the Prime Minister1s portfolio, too, since December 1889» Therefore he was all but doubly responsible for the enforcement of the Law of Election; however, apart from cases like the Toyama query mentioned above, the



officials at the Home Office did not often intervene in the management of the election, but rather preferred to leave it almost entirely in the hands of the prefectural authorities. The prefectural governors, too, tended to keep themselves in the background. They had to issue a certain number of proclamations, ensure that there was an adequate supply of ballot forms, check the electoral rolls and results of the voting, and generally keep a watchful eye on the way things were developing; but, in essence, a governor1s function was to make sure that his subordinate

officials were carrying out the real work of the administration of the election in a manner that was both proper and efficient. The burden of this real work undoubtedly devolved on those

minor local government officials who were appointed to act as Returning Officers.

If a constituency was limited to a single gun or a single city (shi), its sub-prefect (guncho) or mayor (shicho) was Returning Officer. When several gun or shi were combined

into one constituency, the governor had to appoint one of the guncho or shicho to be Returning Officer. Likewise,

when a city had more than one constituency within its municipal boundaries, the governor nominated one of the urban district heads (kuchö) in each of the constituencies to be its

polling stations were put under the authority of the heads of the villages (son), towns (cho), or urban districts (ku) in which they were situated. Thus, in every case, the

most onerous tasks of electoral administration - that is, the responsibility of being a Returning Officer, and the supervision of the polling stations - fell to the senior local government official in the area concerned, Gunchö and kucho had been appointed to their posts; shicho, chocho, and soncho had been elected to theirs.

The Government, when drawing up the Law of Election,

had taken for granted the honesty of these petty functionaries. Events were to prove this assumption largely correct so far

as the Returning Officers were concerned; on the other hand, many of the local dignitaries who were not Returning

Officers used their position to influence the outcome of the election. Accordingly, in retrospect, it was felt by commentators on the election that it would have been better if the Government had issued supervisory regulations to

prevent improper conduct by the minor officials in charge of, or attached to, the administrative offices in every urban


ward, town, or village. An extreme example of this improper conduct occurred in the Fifth Constituency, Saitarna prefecture, where the heads of the towns and villages campaigned actively



Suematsu Kencho, Ni-ju-san Een-no So-Senkyo, MBZ, vol.3, p , 217.


on behalf of certain candidates and even held a meeting to assess their suitability. Reporting this, the pro-Government Tokyo Nichi Nichi Shimbun castigated it as an unhealthy

survival of the bad old custom of 1 revere officials, despise the people’• These local officials sometimes justified their partiality on the grounds that they were acting in their private, and not public, capacities; but the border between legitimate exercise of their rights as citizens and outright abuse of their office by way of fraud or coercion must have been frequently crossed.

The costs of the election in each constituency were to be met out of local taxes. There is no means of ascertaining what these costs actually were, but one may hazard a guess that they were not very high. The Returning officers, the supervisors of the polling stations, and the clerks who

worked at the polling stations or the offices of the Returning Officers were all full-time local government officials, and would have received no special emoluments for their electoral v/ork. Similarly, the polling stations themselves were

situated in public buildings, and so the authorities would not have had to pay rent for them. Consequently, apart from

such things as:- (i) the cost of printing special entry permits and ballot forms, of preparing the electoral rolls,

TNNS 22-6-90. 20

and of supplying the requisite memorandum books and writing materials, (ii) the price of the ballot boxes, and the

paying for the transport of them from outlying polling stations to the office of the Returning Officer after the voting was finished, and (iii) perhaps, the costs of any

legal action arising from the election, it is difficult to see for what money would have been needed, A law suit, of course, if it was chargeable to a constituency, could have involved it in fairly heavy expense; but the cost of the other marginal items cannot have amounted to very much.

The Returning Officer for a constituency instructed its town and village heads to make a list of all persons qualified to be electors who were living in the areas

under their control. On this electoral list were inscribed the name, official rank, profession, class, and date of birth of each elector, together with the total amount of direct national taxes paid by him and the place or places in which these taxes were paid. Two copies of the list had to be

prepared by 1 April of the year in which an election was held; and the chocho or soncho was expected to forward one copy to the Returning Officer by the 20th of that month. The Returning Officer, after receiving the local preliminary lists from

the headmen of the towns and villages, made up an amalgamated roll for the entire constituency. A duplicate of this


amalgamated roll was then sent on to the governor of the fu or ken. In the case of the cities, when a whole city or one ward (ku) thereof formed a constituency, the Returning Officer, himself, (shicho or kucho) prepared the electoral roll without the help of preliminary lists. If several

wards were joined together in one constituency, the respective kucho had to draw up the preliminary lists for their own

wards and forward them to whichever one of their number was acting as Returning Officer, When a sub-prefecture (gun)

and a city (shi) were united in one constituency for which the guncho was Returning Officer, the shicho drew up the roll of voters in the city for despatch to the guncho. If the shicho, himself, was the Returning Officer for such a gun-shi constituency, he still had to make the roll for the municipal part of it.

Prom fifteen days from 5 May, the Returning Officer of a constituency was compelled to put its completed electoral roll on public display at the office of the gun, shi, or ku responsible for the management of the election. That is to say, at his own fhomef office. Any member of the public who felt that his own name had been wrongly omitted from the roll, or that somebody else's name had been mistakenly

included in it, was asked to make representations in writing within the period of inspection. On receiving such

r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s , t h e R e t u r n i n g O f f i c e r h a d t o make e n q u i r i e s a n d r e a c h a d e c i s i o n on t h e m a t t e r w i t h i n t w e n t y d a y s . I f he saw f i t t o a l t e r t h e r o l l i n a n y way, he was t o do s o a t on ce a n d s e n d s e p a r a t e n o t i f i c a t i o n s b o t h t o t h e he adman o f t h e a r e a w he re t h e p e r s o n c o n c e r n e d was l i v i n g a n d t o t h e g e n e r a l b o d y o f c o n s t i t u e n t s . The R e t u r n i n g O f f i c e r ’ s d e c i s i o n t o amend t h e r o l l o r n o t t o amend i t c o u l d be c o n t e s t e d a t l a w , e i t h e r by t h e p e r s o n who h a d made t h e o r i g i n a l r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s o r by t h e p e r s o n a b o u t whom t h e y h a d b e e n mad e. A p l a i n t i f f was r e q u i r e d t o f i l e a s u i t i n t h e C o u r t o f F i r s t I n s t a n c e s w i t h i n s e v e n d a y s o f t h e p u b l i c a t i o n o f t h e R e t u r n i n g O f f i c e r ’ s d e c i s i o n . The c o u r t s w e r e i n s t r u c t e d t o h e a r s u i t s i n c o n n e c t i o n w i t h amendments t o t h e e l e c t o r a l r o l l s w i t h o u t d e l a y , a n d t o r e g a r d t h e m a s h a v i n g f i r s t c l a i m on t h e i r a t t e n t i o n . A p p e a l s a g a i n s t t h e j u d g e m e n t s o f t h e C o u r t s o f F i r s t I n s t a n c e c o u l d n o t be b r o u g h t i n t h e o r d i n a r y C o u r t s o f A p p e a l , b u t t h e Supreme C o u r t c o u l d be a s k e d t o c o n s i d e r t h e m . On 15 J u n e , t h e e l e c t o r a l r o l l s we re t o b e r e g a r d e d a s s e t t l e d a n d c o m p l e t e . O n l y a j u d i c i a l d e c i s i o n c o u l d c h a n g e t he m a f t e r t h a t d a t e . The r u l e s f o r t h e p r e p a r a t i o n a n d amendment o f t h e e l e c t o r a l r o l l s w e re one o f t h e f a i r e s t a n d m o s t c a r e f u l l y t h o u g h t o u t f e a t u r e s o f t h e Law o f E l e c t i o n . P o s s i b l y f o r t h i s r e a s o n , n e w s p a p e r r e p o r t s o f l i t i g a t i o n i n c o n n e c t i o n


with the rolls were not very common. The following summary of one of these reports is given as a seemingly isolated example of what could happen, but it is perhaps worth mentioning that this particular item concludes with the

observation that ’such suits will be frequent occurrences from now on.’ Apparently, revaluations of property for taxation purposes had deprived a number of influential people of their electoral rights in the previous year, and had caused quite a furore on the occasion of the re-election of half the


In document Japan's first general election, 1890 (Page 72-79)