A New Jersey high school senior can volunteer for a political campaign and display their support for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders on their social media profiles.
But the most they can do about this year's hotly-contest primaries, including a Democratic contest that could be decided in New Jersey, is count down the days until their 18th birthday.
The "New Voter Empowerment Act," passed by the Assembly last week, would allow 17-year-old New Jerseyans to vote in primary elections as long as their birthday falls before the general election date. A Senate vote is still pending.
If enacted, New Jersey would become the 22nd state to allow the practice, including Delaware, Maryland and Connecticut. In New Jersey, people can already register to vote when they’re 17 years old.
“All it says is, look at the primary and general elections as a unit,” said Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-Somerset, the bill's primary sponsor. “Once someone of any age becomes a voter, they tend to stay a voter. This is inspired by the literally thousands of kids from all parts of the political spectrum who want to be involved.
"Once they start, they don’t stop,” he said.
An identical bill in the Senate, sponsored by Sen. James Beach, D-Camden, is awaiting a committee hearing.
Zwicker, 52, estimates that the bill would give about 23,000 17-year-olds the ability to vote in the primaries each year. And if they vote in the primaries, the hope is that they’ll keep it up in future elections.
Andrew Zwicker (district 16) is sworn in by speaker Vincent Prieto (Photo: Bob Bielk/Gannett NJ, Bob Bielk/Asbury Park Press)
The first-term assemblyman takes the mantra of “every vote matters” to heart: Last year, he upset four-year Assemblywoman Donna Simon, R-Hunterdon, by just 78 votes in the general election. And he did it with a campaign team where the oldest staffer was 27 years old.
“These people believe that we can still go ahead, have a grassroots campaign and get behind someone you believe in, whether it’s me or anybody else,” Zwicker said. “This felt like a good place to start.”
The bill cleared the Assembly last week by a 57 to 17 vote, mostly along party lines: No Democrat voted against it, and only eight Republicans voted in favor.
"We do need to have greater accessibility and convenience for all voting, just to ensure that the integrity of the process is maintained," said Assemblyman Ronald Dancer, R-Ocean, who voted for the bill.
When the issue has been raised in other states, opponents generally agree that it would encourage voter turnout -- but those it directly affects generally vote for Democrats or liberal candidates.
The issue came to a head in Ohio in March, when Sanders sued the secretary of state to allow 17-year-olds to vote. A judge ruled in Sanders's favor.
Zwicker said the goal of the bill is simply to get young people to the polls, regardless of their affiliation.
“Some people will say young people tend to vote Democratic, and isn’t that partisan,” Zwicker said. “I just want everyone out there … I don’t care if someone wants to be a Democrat, a Republican or unaffiliated. I want the young people out there and voting.”
Zwicker Legislation to Expand Primary Voting Rights, Encourage Youth Participation in Elections Gains Assembly OK
(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.
Testifying before the Assembly Judiciary Committee in support of the "New Voter Empowerment Act" on Monday, March 23, 2016.
The "New Voter Empowerment Act" cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee with bi-partisan support on Monday, May 23, 2016, and I am happy to share that it will be voted upon at the next session of the General Assembly this upcoming Thursday, May 26, 2016. I am optimistic that my fellow Assembly Members will agree that this bill will encourage young people to fully exercise their democratic right, and create more life-long voters.
Science and politics have a pretty long history together, so it’s not really surprising that the two are still duking it out when it comes to the future.
What makes this particular juncture in history and in the science/politics fight such an important one, however, is that we are actually at a real crossroads. And this is not the usual “sky is falling” alarmism. We really are, as a planet, inhaling energy resources like a Shop-Vac, and with highly populated parts of the world like India and China using more power every day, it’s time for a better approach to energy production than melted dinosaurs.
So here’s the spot where a panacea-type solution gets put on the table, right? Something like, say, fusion energy, which would have all the benefits and few of the drawbacks of large-scale energy sources like gasoline or nuclear fission.
Well, yes and no. Yes, fusion would be great, but it’s not the only thing, says Andrew Zwicker, state assemblyman and physicist at the Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory. The answer (at least the science part of it) lies in a concert of fusion research and renewable resources like wind and solar that are available now — mainly because realizing workable fusion has been 30 years away for about 50 years now.
The other answer? Getting through the political wall that keeps needed funding and patient, rational discourse on its belly. And Zwicker is not sure which one is the harder challenge to overcome.
Zwicker will be one of two main speakers at “The Future of Energy in Our Region,” the latest installment of the lecture series “Framing the Future,” hosted by the D&R Greenway Land Trust and Green Hour Radio, on Tuesday, May 24, at 6:30 p.m. at D&R Greenway’s Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, Princeton. Zwicker will join Thomas Leyden, vice president of energy storage deployment at SunEdison, to discuss how our electric power sector is transforming to meet the challenges of climate change and to embrace the promise of emerging technologies. Admission is free. Visit www.drgreenway.org, Eemail@example.com, or call 609-924-4646.
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- AndrewRead more
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