Newark City Council Lowers Voting Age to 16 for School Board Elections

Today, the Newark City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to allow 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in local elections. 

“This is a victory for the next generation in Newark. The City Council’s decision will give 7,257 young people a direct voice in shaping the future of their schools and community,” said Alyssa Canty, director of youth programs at Common Cause. “It’s crucial to recognize that a majority of these young folks are people of color, and over half of the student population is considered economically disadvantaged. This is a step toward a school system that works better for its students. We are encouraged and energized by this win, and we can’t wait to see what these young voters will accomplish with the power they’ve been given.”

We train youth more to steer a car than we do to steer the future of our nation,” said Yenjay Hu, co-executive director of Vote16NJ. “Introducing the important responsibility of voting at sixteen would be similar to how the Graduated Driver’s License program introduces the responsibility of driving through incremental steps, producing more responsible and informed voters.” 

“New Jersey local governments require a major revitalization of democracy: Enfranchising sixteen and seventeen-year-olds is the first step,” said Anjali Krishnamurti, co-executive director of Vote16NJ. “Lowering the voting age to sixteen in local elections and school board elections would fortify major pillars of democracy, such as civic engagement and voter turnout, which are at stake at all governmental levels. Enacting a lower voting age would send the message that youth do have a place in politics, instilling a sense of civic duty that would endure for the rest of our lives.” 

In Newark’s most recent school board election, just over 3% of eligible voters participated. The Newark public school system operates with a budget of over $1 billion and a student population over 40,000. Today’s victory means that young people will have a say in the future of their own educations. 

The ordinance passed in Newark today is a part of a nationwide movement to give young people a voice in elections. From California to Massachusetts, many localities have passed or are in the process of advancing measures that give young people more options to participate in our elections. For more information on these efforts, visit Common Cause’s Alliance for Emerging Power.

See More: Voting Rights