KASHIWAZAKI, Niigata Pref. – Voters in this quake-hit city, many of them still stuck in emergency shelters, voiced both hope and despair for the future as they cast their ballots Sunday in the House of Councilors election.
Of Kashiwazaki’s 59 polling stations, 18 were set up in public facilities also being used as shelters for people forced out of their homes by the July 16 quake, the local election board said.
Partitions were set up to separate the voting areas from the living areas to avoid disturbing the evacuees.
People who showed up to vote at the Hisumi Community Center, which is sheltering 48 evacuees, said their primary concern was how they can get their lives back to normal.
“I had a lot of concern about the pension issue because I have children and elderly parents to take care of,” said Yuriko Iizuka, 42. “But that was all before the earthquake. Now I can only think of how to survive from day to day.”
A 69-year-old man, who asked that his name not be published, expressed a similar sentiment.
“I had great concern in this Upper House election because I’m living on pension money,” he said.
“But the earthquake screwed up everything.”
Meanwhile, a 72-year-old woman taking shelter at the community center appeared close to despair. “Please someone bring me back to ordinary life,” she said. “I can’t take this anymore.”
Some voters voiced hope that the election would provide an opportunity for Kashiwazaki to send a plea for help to the central government.
Hiromasa Takemoto, 76, urged the government to quickly rebuild the devastated road infrastructure and help residents repair their damaged houses, no matter which candidate or party wins.
Some 630 officials were handling election-related work Sunday. Some came from the Niigata Prefectural Government because the Kashiwazaki Municipal Government couldn’t cope with election and quake-related work at the same time.
Members of Japan’s expedition to Antarctica cast their ballots by fax for Sunday’s Upper House election, the first national poll in which they were allowed to vote as a result of last year’s election law revision.
“Members had long requested a vote, and it was a major step forward that we could finally do it,” said expedition leader Hiroshi Miyaoka.