TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Beach and Senator Nia H. Gill that would expand young voter access to voting in primary elections received final legislative approval today by the Senate.
The bill (S-2116), designated as the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” would permit any registered 17-year-old voter who will be 18 years old prior to the general election to vote in the corresponding primary election.
“Young citizens who will be eligible to vote in a general election should have a voice on who gets on the ballot for that election,” Senator Beach (D-Burlington, Camden). “This legislation will allow our youth to participate in primary elections, and will engage them in the civic process right at the start of their voting career.”
“When we encourage our youth to participate in the political process as they reach the legal voting age, we are helping them participate in their state and nation’s future,” said Senator Gill (D-Essex, Passaic). “Voting is every citizen’s most fundamental civic duty, and every step we take to improve access is worth the effort.”
Currently in New Jersey, 17-year-olds can register to vote if they will be 18 by the date of the general election, but they are temporarily ineligible to vote until their 18th birthday. Twenty states have enacted laws allowing 17-year-olds to vote in primaries or caucuses. In Illinois, when this policy was implemented in 2014, 17-year-old turnout was comparable to the turnout of voters in their 40s according to FairVote.
The bill was approved by the Senate with a vote of 31-8 and the Assembly by a vote of 57-17. It now heads to the Governor for consideration.