• Kyodo

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The city of Takahama, Aichi Prefecture, will expand eligibility for plebiscites by lowering the voting age and allowing foreign permanent residents and convicts to vote, city officials said Tuesday.

The city government plans to submit a bill to amend its local plebiscite ordinance to the city assembly, which opens Friday, and hopes to put the looser rules into force on Sept. 1.

The ordinance will be the first one in Japan to lower the voting age to 18 for local plebiscites. Under the current ordinance, voting rights are given in accordance with the public offices election law, which allows Japanese nationals over the age of 20 to vote.

Mayor Sadanori Mori said he expects young people to express their views on community building. He also said it is important for convicts to vote because they will become ordinary citizens after leaving prison.

Muneyuki Shindo, professor of public administration at Chiba University, said it is appropriate to allow foreign permanent residents to vote because local plebiscites are held to decide the future of local districts.

“It will be necessary for the city to translate plebiscite documents into foreign languages so foreigners with permanent residency can clearly understand the focus of a plebiscite,” he said.

Qualified voters will also be allowed to sign petitions for local plebiscites, the bill said. The current ordinance was enacted in April 2001 and allows residents to call for a plebiscite at any time if certain conditions are met.

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