• Kyodo

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With the dissolution of the Lower House imminent and a snap election just around the corner, municipalities and government offices nationwide are scrambling to meet a staffing shortfall and a general lack of preparedness.

Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, a city hit hard by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, is scheduled to hold a mayoral election on Sunday, the first such race since the disaster.

But the city is too short of staff to prepare for a general election as only four full-time employees are working on poll preparations. Most other staffers are busy with reconstruction projects.

To maximize efficiency, the city has decided to keep the ballot boxes and vote counting machines in City Hall instead of putting them back into storage after the mayoral election.

“We are getting help from other sections, but it’s hard to prepare for two elections at the same time,” said a staff member for the city’s election management committee.

Officials in Koto Ward, Tokyo, had hoped to use a hotel as the ward’s polling station, but the plan was rejected as the inn is fully booked for year-end parties.

“It would help us if we could use a hotel, because the hotel staff could do the necessary preparations for setting up a polling station,” lamented a ward official, adding that a public gymnasium will now be used instead.

The city of Asahikawa, Hokkaido, has also secured a public gymnasium as a polling station, which until now had planned to host a sports competition.

“The election takes priority, so we couldn’t help it,” said a representative of the Hokkaido Football Association, one of the event’s organizers.

Meanwhile, the Sapporo Municipal Government has been puzzling over how to recruit the 4,000 part-timers needed to help count ballots.

In the city of Yamagata, snow is a major concern.

“It’s this time of the year when the area gets covered with snow, so we want to finish setting up (campaign) poster boards before it starts snowing,” a Yamagata Municipal Government official said.

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