TRENTON – In an effort to keep democracy strong by attracting and involving young voters, legislation allowing registered voters who are 17 years old to vote in the primary election if the voter turns 18 before the next general election passed out of the State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee.
The bill, long a priority for Senator Andrew Zwicker, dating to his time in the Assembly, is sponsored by Senator Zwicker and Senator James Beach, who has also advocated for Voting and Election Day reforms.
“In order to continue to keep our democracy vibrant, and to ensure its legacy for our children and grandchildren, we must devise voting systems that are relevant in the 21st Century, and that are practical and as accessible as possible to young voters,” said Senator Zwicker (Middlesex/Mercer/Somerset/Hunterdon).
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 they will be voting alongside 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 State Government, Wagering, Tourism and Historic Preservation Committee, by a vote of 4-0.