Zwicker Legislation to Expand Primary Voting Rights, Encourage Youth Participation in Elections Gains Assembly OK

Attach19999_20160526_170937.jpg(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker that would allow more young New Jersey residents to participate in elections gained approval from the General Assembly on Thursday.

The bill (A-3591), the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election provided they will turn 18 on or before the next succeeding general election. It is Zwicker’s first piece of legislation to be advanced out of the Assembly.

“Young people in New Jersey are eager to raise their voices and make a difference,” said Zwicker (D-Hunterdon/Mercer/Middlesex/Somerset). “More than 23,000 of them will have a birthday after the primary but before the general election. Under my legislation, they would be able to vote in both elections.  It's an important step forward to fully empower thousands of new voters every year.”

New Jersey would join 21 states and the District of Columbia in allowing 17-year-olds who will turn 18 during the interim period between a primary or caucus and the general election to participate in the nomination process, Zwicker noted.

The bill would affect students like Henry Zhu, a 17-year-old high school student who, through his involvement with Junior State of America, advocated in support of the legislation. While Zhu looks forward to voting in the November election, he is ineligible to participate in the June 7 primary election because he will not turn 18 until August.

“This legislation would empower me to actively participate in the primary process just like every other young new voter,” said Zhu. “If an important goal of both parties is to attract young, new voters into their support base, why are New Jersey teenagers who qualify to vote in November turned away from the polls in June?”

          The legislation passed 57-17.