TRENTON – In an effort to keep democracy strong by attracting and involving young voters, legislation sponsored by Senator Andrew Zwicker and Senator James Beach that will allow registered voters who are 17 years old to vote in the primary election if the voter turns 18 before the next general election cleared the Senate.
The bill has long been a priority for Senator Zwicker, and is the first bill he wrote in the Assembly; it is also an important bill for Senator Beach, who has advocated for and advanced a number of voting and Election Day reforms in the Senate.
“One person, one vote” is at the heart of our democracy and today we are giving young people the opportunity to make their voices heard by granting them the right to vote in a primary election,” said Senator Zwicker (D- -Middlesex/Mercer/Somerset/Hunterdon). “At a time when our politics is polarized and when too many people stay home on Election Day, it is time to empower a new generation of voters so that they may have a say in the future of our great state.”
Current statutes only permit persons who are at least 17 years of age to register to vote if they will attain 18 years of age on or by the date of the general election. This bill would allow for such registrants to vote in a primary, provided they turn 18 on or before the date of the next general election.
“Many teens look forward to voting in their first election but as it stands if they are turning 18 between June and November they don’t get a say in who’s on the ballot,” said Senator Beach (D-Camden/Burlington). “By allowing these 17 year olds to vote in primary elections we are allowing them to weigh in on which candidates they want representing their party in the general election, just like everyone else who will be voting in November.”
Eighteen states as well as the District of Columbia have already enacted such a change. The bill cleared the full Assembly last May, by a vote of 51-24.
The Senate bill, S-1888, was released from the Senate by a vote of 24-10.