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Tens of thousands of Self-Defense Forces personnel will vote in local elections this month by absentee ballot because they have been deployed to disaster zones since March 11, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday.

It will be the largest-ever absentee balloting by SDF members since around 2,000 voted by mail in the Lower House election in 2009, when they were dispatched to the Indian Ocean to provide refueling support for U.S.-led antiterrorism operations.

Personnel who receive ballots by mail from their municipalities can cast their votes at City Halls and other public facilities located near their deployment areas, according to ministry officials. They started casting ballots Monday.

Some 20,000 deployed Ground Self-Defense Force members have applied for absentee ballots. Around 5,000 Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel are expected to vote aboard MSDF vessels.

Housing lottery

RIKUZENTAKATA , Iwate Pref. (Kyodo) The first lottery for temporary housing units following the March 11 killer earthquake and tsunami was held Tuesday in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, with 1,160 applications filed for 36 dwellings.

The 36 units were built on the grounds of a junior high school. Each can accommodate two to three people.

Half were allocated to senior citizens or disabled people, as well as single-mother households. These drew 200 applications.

The other half were assigned for general families and drew 960 applications.

The municipal government in the devastated coastal city plans to build enough temporary housing units by the end of August to accommodate all applicants.

School nuke checks

FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) The Fukushima Prefectural Government started radiation measurements Tuesday at schools to check for contamination from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

The emergency measurement through Thursday will be conducted at some 1,400 kindergartens as well as elementary and junior high schools. The move came as numerous parents have asked the authorities since Friday, the start of the academic year, if they can allow their children to walk to school or to spend time in school playgrounds.

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