NJ looks at lowering the voting age for primaries
If you're going to turn 18 by Election Day, you should be able to cast a vote at age 17 for who should be on the general election ballot, according to a proposed law moving through the New Jersey Legislature.
The full Assembly has given the green light to a bill that lowers New Jersey's voting age to 17 for primary elections, for individuals who will be of age when Election Day arrives.
"Seventeen-year-olds, I like to think, are more engaged than ever. You see it everywhere across the country," said Assemblyman Anthony Verrelli, D-Mercer, a sponsor of the measure and chair of the Assembly State and Local Government Committee. "I believe they are informed, thoughtful, and compassionate."
In more than a third of the states, primary voting is permitted for 17-year-olds who will turn 18 by the general election. The federal voting age is 18.
In New Jersey, 17-year-olds have the right to pre-register to vote.
"Allowing them to participate in the primaries is the next logical step in strengthening political participation in New Jersey," said Micauri Vargas, associate counsel for the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice.
Vargas added that learning the voting process is likely easier for teens in the spring — New Jersey's 2023 Primary is scheduled for June 6 — than in the fall, when general elections occur, while they may be adjusting to college or a new job.
A Senate version of the legislation has not yet received consideration by a committee. If the bill were to become law, it would take effect on Jan. 1 of the following year.
The Assembly advanced the bill on May 25 by a vote of 51-24.
Assemblyman Edward Thomson, R-Monmouth, who voted against the measure, said he wasn't even in favor of the nationwide voting-age switch from 21 to 18 in the 1970s.
"I can't support going less than that, especially when you're talking about a primary, which, in my opinion, is the most important part of the election process," Thomson said.