New Jersey Breaks Ground with Youth Voting Reform: 17-Year-Olds Gain Primary Voting Rights


Governor Phil Murphy has signed the "New Voter Empowerment Act" into law, granting 17-year-olds the right to vote in primary elections if they turn 18 by the subsequent general election.

NEW JERSEY – January 4, 2024, marked a historic day in New Jersey's democratic process. Governor Phil Murphy, reinforcing his administration's commitment to expanding voting rights, enacted the "New Voter Empowerment Act." 

This legislation allows 17-year-olds to participate in primary elections, provided they reach the age of 18 by the following general election. This act represents a significant step forward in engaging young voters in the state's democratic process.

The governor's latest action builds on a series of voting rights expansions under his administration. These include measures such as automatic voter registration, early in-person voting, online voter registration, and restoring voting rights to individuals on probation or parole. These reforms collectively aim to create a more inclusive and representative electoral system in New Jersey.

"To strengthen our democracy, we must ensure that all eligible voters can participate in it," Governor Murphy stated, emphasizing the importance of involving future generations in today's decision-making processes. 

This legislation not only expands access to the ballot box but also aims to foster civic engagement among a new generation of voters.

Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way, who also serves as New Jersey's chief election officer, highlighted the increasing youth voter turnout since 2018 and her commitment to youth voter engagement. 

"The New Voter Empowerment Act will bring New Jersey voters into the process earlier than ever before, helping young people build healthy civic habits and contribute to our democracy," Lieutenant Governor Tahesha Way commented.

Under the current law, 17-year-olds can register to vote, but they are marked as temporarily ineligible in the Statewide Voter Registration System until their 18th birthday. The new legislation, set to take effect on January 1, 2026, changes this, allowing them to vote in primary elections, provided they turn 18 by the next general election.

The bill, sponsored by Senator Andrew Zwicker, Assemblyman William "Bill" Moen, Senator James Beach, Assemblymembers Anthony Verrelli, and Paul Moriarty, reflects a growing trend in American politics to involve younger citizens in the electoral process.

This move by New Jersey positions it as a leader in youth voter engagement, potentially setting a precedent for other states to follow. As the state prepares for this change, the focus now turns to how this new demographic of voters will shape the future political landscape of New Jersey and beyond.

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