A recent local election in the Japanese city of Karatsu in Saga Prefecture was temporarily bogged down with a minor state of confusion.
The dilemma? Voters did not know how to properly vote for either of their city council candidates who were both named Shigeru Aoki.
Incumbent Shigeru Aoki, who is 56 years old, and his challenger, 43-year-old Shigeru Aoki, were both gunning for a spot on the city council. There were 32 candidates running for the assembly which has 30 available seats.
While there were many other candidates, both Shigeru Aokis found themselves in a very tricky campaign trail. According to RocketNews24, they have the exact same, name right down to the kanji (青木茂).
— 宮原ジェフリーいちろう (@ichiro_jeffrey) January 25, 2017
Being both independent candidates, the option of being distinguished by a party was already out.
They also have similar industry backgrounds (construction), running on the same platform (making Karatsu City more self-reliant), banking on the same local electoral base.
Their campaigns were so similar that even their supporters got confused. Both camps have claimed that their supporters have accidentally walked into each of their opponent’s offices.
The confusion was so evident throughout the campaign that even through public speeches and gatherings, each candidate had to clearly identify themselves before their listeners.
For the election committee, identifying exactly which Shigeru Aoki was voted for became the main concern. Since counting the handwritten ballots would certainly be a challenge for them, the Ministry of Internal Affairs came up with an unorthodox voting solution.
Voters were advised to write an extra word beside the chosen candidate’s name on the ballot on election day to help distinguish which candidate was voted for.
— にゅんぺい (@N3fxC) January 22, 2017
They could choose to write the age or whether they are the incumbent or challenger.
Some followed this by writing::
“Aoki Shigeru, 56”
“Aoki Shigeru, incumbent”
Since other descriptions were allowed, some wrote their votes this way:
“Aoki Shigeru, with glasses”
“Aoki Shigeru who graduated from Fukuoka University”
Then there were other who used subjective descriptions, which were of course rejected by election officials:
“Aoki Shigeru, the smart one”
“Aoki Shigeru, the one who looks like he could lose a little weight”
“Aoki Shigeru, the guy who complimented my hairstyle last week”
The ballots that had no additional descriptions and were just left “Aoki Shigeru” were divided equally between the two candidates.
The candidates gave their opinion on the issue:
“This time around I have the same name as someone else. I have no choice but to also promote any personal information that will set me apart at the time of voting,” said Shigeru Aoki
“Having the same name as has gotten both our campaigns added attention online. I want to use that to reach out to younger voters this election,” said the other Shigeru Aoki.
In the end, both Shigeru Aokis were elected on Sunday, leaving the election officials with one last conundrum to sort out: which candidate won more votes than the other? According to Japan Times, voters from both camps have complained that they had cast their ballot for the other Shigeru Aoki, after mixing up the terms “incumbent” and “challenger.”