Turner, Beach Bills Seeking To Increase Voter Registration And Participation Clear Committee

A view of the Senate Chambers from the 2010-2011 Senate Reorganization.

TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senators Shirley K. Turner (D – Mercer, Hunterdon) and Jim Beach (D – Camden) that would make it easier for people to participate in the democratic process has cleared the Senate State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.

Senator Turner’s bill, S1378, would allow an eligible voter to register to vote up to 14 days before an election. Currently, an individual is eligible to register up to 21 days before an election. The bill would not affect the constitutional requirement that a person must reside in a county for 30 days prior to an election in order to be eligible to vote in that election.

“Voting is the most basic right we have in a democracy and it is important that everyone who desires to register for participation in an election has the opportunity to exercise his or her voting rights,” said Turner. “It may not seem like a lot, but seven additional days is more than enough time to allow hundreds more people to register and vote. We should encourage participation in the electoral process, not set up roadblocks.”

Senator Beach’s bill, SCR26, proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow any individual who would be 18 years old by the next general election to register and vote in the primary election. The amendment would be placed on the ballot. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Carolina, Ohio, Vermont and Virginia allow 17 year olds that will be 18 by the general election to “pre-register” to vote.

“Unfortunately, voter participation numbers are shockingly low and that needs to change. The numbers are especially bad among our young people, who may not realize the role they can play in our democracy. Expanding the process to allow them to take part in more elections is a great way to get them further involved,” said Beach.

Both bills now head to the Senate floor.

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