Sen. Zwicker, Asm. Freiman & Asw. Drulis Announce Immediate Project Revival, New Contractor for Route 206 Construction

July 22, 2024

New Jersey would allow 17-year-olds to vote in primary elections if they will turn 18 by the general election under legislation advanced Thursday.

Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., already have such laws, which are intended to boost voter turnout and engage young voters.

The Senate’s state government committee unanimously agreed to advance the bill, dubbed the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” after hearing from two voting rights advocates supporting it.

“It sends a message to young people that their voices matter in the political process. Young voters are often accused of being politically disengaged, but how can we blame them when our laws limit their ability to fully participate?” said Nancy Hedlinger of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey. “Getting young people to become voters and allowing them to form the habit of voting early is essential to raising a new generation of active and engaged citizens.”

Hedlinger and Micauri Vargas of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice urged committee members to dump an amendment that delays the bill’s implementation until Jan. 1, 2026.

“Learning the voting process is likely easier in the spring in high school than in the fall, when people are adjusting to new jobs or colleges and possibly living in a new city or state,” Vargas said. “Young voters face enough burdens and barriers to the ballot like arbitrary voter registration deadlines or residency restrictions, so if there’s an opportunity to increase young voter turnout in primary elections, which is historically low in New Jersey, New Jersey should take it.”

Sen. James Beach (D-Camden) is the committee’s chair and a prime sponsor of the bill along with Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-Middlesex).

He said Gov. Phil Murphy supports the bill but requested the delay, so the committee kept the amendment.

“It’s a good, common-sense bill, and any time that we can open voting to everyone, we’re better off,” Beach said.

The full Assembly passed the bill in May by a 51-24 vote along party lines. It now awaits a vote before the full Senate.