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Coronavirus forces Japan local officials to don protective gear to count by-election votes

Staff count ballots for the House of Representatives by-election while wearing protective face gear and gloves in Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture, on April 26, 2020. (Mainichi/Koichiro Tezuka)

SHIZUOKA -- Local officials in a central Japan prefecture took extraordinary measures such as donning protective gear to count ballots on the night of April 26, after the polls closed earlier that night for the first national election following the novel coronavirus outbreak in Japan.

A House of Representatives by-election in the Shizuoka No. 4 constituency, which includes Shimizu Ward in the prefectural capital of Shizuoka and the city of Fujinomiya, was held on April 26. The Fujinomiya municipal election administration commission had prepared disinfectant spray bottles at the city gymnasium where votes were being tallied, while city employees wore protective face gear and gloves to count the ballots. Some 200 people worked on the vote counting with the gym's windows open, while they ensured that they keep a certain distance from each other.

Ahead of the April 26 polls, local election administration commissions took numerous anti-coronavirus measures from the day when the campaigns kicked off and also at polling stations for early voters.

At the Shimizu Ward Office, one of the early voting stations, officials not only wore masks and protective gloves, but if voters requested, they also provided them with the gloves to cast a vote. They had the windows open, with fans going to help ventilate the place. They also disinfected each pencil every time it was used, while voters were allowed to bring in their own pencils to vote.

Furthermore, the Shimizu Ward election commission used its official mascot's Twitter account to inform locals on how congested the voting stations were. An official told the Mainichi Shimbun, "We can't let anyone get infected at the polling stations."

(Japanese original by Rinnosuke Fukano and Hideyuki Yamada, Shizuoka Bureau)

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