(TRENTON) – In an effort to strengthen New Jersey’s democratic process and increase voter confidence in election security, the full Assembly today advanced three measures to provide greater election transparency and enable more residents to make their voices heard. The legislation would establish the New Voter Empowerment Act, revise election-reporting requirements, and change certain general election deadlines.
The measures advanced today build on past voting expansions championed by Assembly Democrats, which have significantly strengthened access to the vote, boosted accuracy of real-time vote count reporting and improved voter trust and confidence.
“We have made it a priority in the Assembly to ensure New Jersey’s elections remain transparent, secure and fair. From the onset of this session, we have taken strides to improve access to the vote and empower all New Jersey residents to exercise their democratic rights,” said Assembly Speaker Craig J. Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “Updating how we report ballots will enable our citizens to trust in the way our elections are conducted and maintain confidence in their outcomes.”
The Speaker’s bill (A5176) would require county clerks to periodically report the unofficial tally of election results on the night of a primary or general election leading up until the final tally is available. The full Assembly approved the measure, 71-1.
An additional measure (A3690), sponsored by Assemblymen Bill Moen, Anthony Verrelli and Paul Moriarty, would create the New Voter Empowerment Act. The bill would allow a registered voter who is 17 years old to vote in a primary election provided they will be 18 years old at the time of the succeeding general election. The bill advanced, 50-24.
“If someone is able to cast their vote in the November general election they should be able to participate in the preceding primary election,” said Assemblyman Bill Moen (D-Camden, Gloucester) “It’s important to get young people involved in the political process so that our democracy can continue to thrive.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states currently allow 17-year-olds who will be 18 by the general election to vote in primaries.
“Primary elections play an important role in determining which candidates are nominated to run in the general election. Young voters deserve the opportunity to participate in this process and we should not allow a matter of months to stand in their way,” said Assemblyman Verrelli (D-Mercer, Hunterdon). “This, paired with additional measures to ensure our elections run smoothly, will provide greater participation and efficiency in New Jersey elections.”
“Through the New Voter Empowerment Act, we will encourage strong engagement among young people in New Jersey,” said Assemblyman Paul Moriarty (D-Camden, Gloucester). “By giving eligible 17-year-olds a voice in primary elections, we are providing them with an additional avenue to advocate for their beliefs.”
A third bill (A5175), sponsored by Assemblyman Verrelli and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, would change the dates of certain general election deadlines, including but not limited to deadlines pertaining to the nomination and preparation of official general election ballots processes. The bill was approved, 68-3.
“Changing key election deadlines will help us ensure our elections operate efficiently,” said Assemblywoman McKnight (D-Hudson). “Many election deadlines had to be moved back due to vote by mail and the ballot cure processes that have been added in recent years. This legislation will realign our general election deadlines to ensure they do not conflict and create challenges for election workers.”
All three bills now head to the Senate for further consideration.