Male citizens over the age of 25 were eligible to vote, except for members of the Imperial Army or Navy and the Imperial family. Originally, suffrage was limited to only those who had paid 15 yen in taxes. This initially meant that rural landowners dominated the franchise. However, the tax restriction was reduced to 10 yen and then 3 yen, and eventually abolished altogether by the General Election Law of 1925.
For the first six elections, from 1890 to 1898, single member districts were used and candidates were elected by majority vote. Strictly speaking each district actually had two members, but only one faced re-election each time. There were frequent elections for this reason during the 1890s. This setup briefly returned for the 14th and 15th elections, in 1920 and 1924, respectively.
From the seventh election in 1902 onward and until the 13th in 1920, large, multi member districts were adopted. Each prefecture constituted one electoral district, but incorporated cities with over 30,000 citizens formed their own districts. Multiple representatives were elected on single non-transferable votes. Secret ballot was also introduced in this election, and the tax requirement was reduced to 10 yen - doubling the suffrage.
As mentioned earlier, single member districts made a return for two elections starting in 1920. The tax requirement was slashed to three yen in this year too, which increased the number of eligible voters from three to fourteen million.
Starting with the 16th election in 1928, medium sized multi member electoral districts, each returning three to five members, were instituted. The voting system remained single non-transferable vote. This setup essentially remained in effect in Japan until the last decade of the 20th century.
- Haddad, Mary Alice. Building democracy in Japan. Cambridge University Press, 2012.
- Schafferer, Christian, ed. Election Campaigning in East and Southeast Asia: Globalization of Political Marketing. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006.
- Hall, John Whitney. The Cambridge History of Japan. Cambridge University Press, 1991.