The electronic voting system used for the first time in Japan over the weekend in a local election should be used in Diet elections due to its speedy ballot-counting ability, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said Monday.

“If no major problem is found in other local polls, I hope it will be used in Diet elections as soon as possible,” Koizumi said. “I’ve long supported the introduction of the electronic voting system.”

He was referring to the mayoral and assembly elections Sunday in Niimi, Okayama Prefecture.

Polling closes at 8 p.m. in most local and Diet elections. Final returns, which are counted by hand, are often not announced until after midnight.

The system used in Niimi required voters to insert into voting machines voting cards handed out at polling stations. Voters made their choices for mayor and city assembly members by using touch screens on the voting machines.

Officials transported memory cards from the machines to ballot-counting stations after the polls closed. The counting took only 25 minutes.

The entire process of ballot counting, including handwritten absentee ballots, was completed in two hours, the officials said.

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