(TRENTON) – The Assembly State and Local Government Committee on Wednesday approved legislation to allow more young New Jersey residents to participate in the elections process.
Under current law, a person who is at least 17 years of age can register to vote in New Jersey, but they are not eligible to vote until they turn 18. This measure (A-2763), to be known as the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” would permit 17-year-old residents to vote in a primary election provided they will turn 18 on or before the next subsequent general election.
The bill is sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Lisa Swain and Jamel Holley.
“Young people in New Jersey are eager to raise their voices and make a difference,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon, Mercer, Middlesex, Somerset). “Many of them will have a birthday after the primary but before the general election. Under this legislation, they would be able to vote in both elections. It’s an important step forward to fully empower thousands of new voters every year.”
New Jersey would join 23 states and the District of Columbia in allowing 17-year-old residents who will turn 18 during the interim period between a primary or caucus and the general election to participate in the nomination process.
“It’s important for our state to establish a culture of voting in both primaries and general elections among young people,” said Swain (D-Bergen, Passaic). “Making this simple change will enable thousands more first-time voters to get involved in elections.”
“There’s a whole set of young people in New Jersey who want to – and should – fulfill their civic duty during the general election but are shut out of making their voices heard during the primary,” said Holley (D-Union). “Allowing 17-year-old New Jersey residents who ultimately will choose a candidate in the general election to vote in the primary will make the electoral process fairer.”
The measure would take effect January 1st next following the date of enactment. It now goes to the Assembly Speaker for further consideration.