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Ronald Kimbrough 3rd Dist. Morris Township

Assembly advances bill allowing 16-year-olds to work the polls

Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City).

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Last year’s poll worker shortage forced NJ to tap National Guard to count ballots

By Nikita BiryukovMarch 16 2021 2:19 pm

The Assembly Labor Committee on Monday advanced a bill that would allow minors aged 16 and older to work the polls on election day.

“Becoming involved in the electoral process at a younger age would increase civic engagement and instill the importance of statewide and federal elections,” Assembly sponsors Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-Englewood) and Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) said in a joint statement. “It has been clear that more people are participating in elections and we want to continue to grow political interest in our younger generations.”

The bill would allow those between the ages of 16 and 18 to act as poll workers between 5:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on the day of an election. It does not include provisions to allow minors to work at early voting stations that would be set up by a bill expected to see a final Senate vote on March 25.

It cleared the Senate Labor Committee in a unanimous vote in October.

Last year, election officials worried over a shortage of poll workers, fearing the typically elderly New Jerseyans who do the job would stay home because of COVID-19.

Members of the New Jersey National Guard were called in to help count ballots. It doesn’t appear as though the state is headed for a repeat of last year’s mostly-mail elections, but it’s possible poll workers, who must be trained, will again be in short supply as the state continues to vaccinate residents.

“This bill will ensure eligible voters who are elderly or may have a disability can still cast their ballots,” the lawmakers said. “With such an emphasis on technology, those who are 16-18 can learn how to use electronic poll books and greatly help instruct eligible voters on any difficulties they may face.”

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