New Jersey advances measures to increase voter registration

About 5 percent of New Jersey's black voting-age population cannot participate in the political process, according to the Institute for Social Justice. That's more than twice the rate in neighboring New York and Pennsylvania. (AP file photo)

About 5 percent of New Jersey's black voting-age population cannot participate in the political process, according to the Institute for Social Justice. That's more than twice the rate in neighboring New York and Pennsylvania. (AP file photo)

Measures advancing through the New Jersey Assembly would make some changes in the state’s election laws.

Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker’s bill would allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election if they would turn 18 by the general election.

“The primaries make a difference. I mean, we see that in New Jersey at the presidential level for the first time in a long time,” said Zwicker, D-Middlesex. “But we know as we move down the ballot that often what’s happening is the primaries are where we are really getting a chance to make our decisions now.”

A second measure approved by the Assembly Judiciary Committee would automatically register someone to vote or update their registration information when renewing a driver’s license.

Sandra Matsen with the League of Women Voters of New Jersey said that could prevent someone from not being able to vote if they move and forget to notify the county board of elections.

“In the list of things that I have to do when I move, I would suggest that getting your right address on your driver’s license is probably higher than remembering to change you voter registration — which is probably about 10 days before an election, when it’s too late,” she said.

Assemblyman Erik Peterson voted against the measure.

“Forcing somebody to register to vote seems a little un-American to me,” said Peterson, R-Hunterdon. “People should have right to decide whether they want to register to vote or not.”

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