TRENTON, NJ – Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Andrew Zwicker, Jamel Holley, Tim Eustace, Arthur Barclay, Angela McKnight and Raj Mukherji that would allow more young New Jersey residents to participate in elections was approved Thursday by the full Assembly, 56-17.

Te “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.

The bill was approved by the Assembly State and Local Committee on April 5. It is now poised to be considered by the full Senate for a floor vote.

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“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 this 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.

“There’s a whole set of young people in New Jersey who want to – and should – fulfill their civic duty during the general election but are shut out of making their voices heard during the primary,” said Holley (D-Union). “Allowing 17-year-old New Jersey residents who ultimately will choose a candidate in the general election to vote in the primary will make the electoral process more fair.”

“As a matter of principle, all eligible voters should be able to take part in both the primary and the general election,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “This legislation will make that basic notion the law in New Jersey.

“Increasing voter turnout is integral to ensuring that all voices are heard and all people are represented in our democracy,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “If 17-year-olds are allowed to enlist and serve in the Armed Forces with parental consent or upon emancipation, then they should certainly be allowed to participate in selecting party nominees when they will turn 18 in time to vote for that nominee.”