Newark has already made the move. The entire Garden State may follow.

If new legislation becomes law, New Jersey could become the first state in the country to have such a rule on the books. The idea already has the support of the governor.

Bills introduced in the New Jersey Assembly and Senate would permit 16- and 17-year-olds to cast a vote in local school board elections.

The aim is to give teens more of a voice in deciding who gets to make moves that directly impact them.

The new bills mirror an ordinance approved by Newark City Council in January. Individuals as young as 16 in the city will be able to vote in school board races, likely starting in 2025.

"We think that if you start voting younger ... you're more likely to become a lifelong voter," said Micauri Vargas, associate counsel at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice. "We see a lot of disengagement, particularly in young demographics."

Vargas wrote the ordinance that was eventually approved by Newark. The organization took on the task after being approached by Newark teens who wanted to change the rules locally.

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According to NJISJ, the statewide legislation is poised to directly impact nearly 240,000 young people.

If the bill becomes law, it would go into effect on Jan. 1 of the following year.

“We greatly appreciate that the NJ State Legislature is taking on the important issue of lowering the voting age for school board elections to 16," said Anjali Krishanmurti and Yenjay Hu, executive directors of Vote16NJ. “The introduction of this bill will amplify the voices of passionate New Jersey youth to discuss issues they have a direct stake in."

During his State of the State address in January, Gov. Phil Murphy called on lawmakers to send a bill to his desk that lowers the legal voting age for school board elections.

The Senate and Assembly versions of the new bills are sponsored by Democrats.

Also in January, Murphy signed a bill that says, beginning in 2026, 17-year-olds can vote in a primary election as long as they turn 18 in time for the general election.

“Newark lit the match and now we are seeing the fire of democracy spread,” said Vargas. “With so much at stake for young people right now, that’s incredibly exciting.”

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