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City election candidates with identical names spark voter confusion worries

KARATSU, Saga -- Two candidates with the same name are running for the municipal assembly here, sparking worries the coincidence could deprive all the candidates of equal attention and confuse voters.

    Two candidates named Shigeru Aoki, one a 56-year-old incumbent looking for his fourth term, and one a 43-year-old rookie, are running in the Jan. 29 election. Both are independents. According to Karatsu's municipal election administration committee, this is the first time the city has ever had two candidates whose names are both pronounced and written the same way. Only a few such cases have ever occurred in Japan.

    Following the example of sources such as notices from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, the committee plans to display on the list of candidates at voting places not only the names of the two candidates, but also their ages and whether they are the incumbent or challenger. Voters will also be advised to write both the name, age and other identifying information when casting ballots for these two candidates. This will be used by monitors to judge who the vote was cast for. Ballots cast with only a name will be distributed between the two candidates according to the ratio of the other votes cast for them.

    The committee says, "This is as far as we will go. The rest is up to how much the two candidates can get out information about themselves."

    Incumbent Aoki says, "I will have to tell people during election campaign speeches that there are two candidates with the same name, and to write down information on their ballot to differentiate which one they are voting for."

    Challenger Aoki says, "Attention has been drawn to the fact that we have the same name, and this has made me better known. After the campaign starts, I will promote myself as a young newcomer to politics."

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