Home>Highlight>‘New Voter Empowerment Act,’ other election reforms pass Assembly

The Assembly chambers before Gov. Phil Murphy's 2023 State of the State address. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for the New Jersey Globe).

‘New Voter Empowerment Act,’ other election reforms pass Assembly

Supplemental ELEC funding approved with scattered Republican opposition

By Joey Fox, May 25 2023 3:00 pm

The State Assembly passed four significant election-related bills today, among them the “New Voter Empowerment Act,” a bill that would allow 17-year-olds to vote in New Jersey primaries if they turn 18 before the general election.

The new voter bill passed on a 50-24 vote; every Democrat present voted yes, with a few Republican assemblymembers joining them.

Assemblyman Bill Moen (D-Bellmawr) was the bill’s Assembly sponsor, but State Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-South Brunswick) has long been its chief proponent, shepherding it through the legislature in 2016 before it was vetoed by then-Gov. Chris Christie. Despite the bill’s success in the Assembly, Zwicker’s own chamber has yet to hear it in committee this session.

“I’m continuing to build up support for it in the Senate,” Zwicker said earlier this month. “I’m hopeful that we can get it moved before the end of the session.”

The Assembly also passed two election reform bills today that build on a raft of legislation passed last year: one to require periodic reporting of election results in the days after Election Day, and another to amend various election deadlines to smooth out issues other bills have caused.

Finally, $1.5 million in supplemental funding for the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC) – representing a 30% boost to the campaign finance watchdog’s budget – was approved on a 67-8 vote, with a few Republican legislators voting no.

ELEC has been in the news quite a bit this year thanks to the Elections Transparency Act, a law signed by Gov. Phil Murphy last month that, among other things, reshaped ELEC’s governing body and instituted a strict new statute of limitations on ELEC complaints. ELEC leaders publicly fretted that the changes would hobble their ability to enforce campaign finance laws; the new funding seems to be meant as a response to those worries.

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