How New Jersey Youth Are Changing The Way We Vote


Photo courtesy from the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning and Engagement

This past gubernatorial election has set a new precedent for New Jersey voters. As our generation becomes more politically aware the number of voters is steadily increasing, as is the utilization of early voting programs and mail-in ballots. The 2020 presidential election turned the tide for mail-in voting. With citizens on lockdown, polling locations could not safely open at full capacity, which is where the mail-in ballot entered the picture. Though not a new concept, the mail-in ballot has become far more popular in recent years. Being creatures of convenience, the ease of filling out a ballot on your own time and submitting early appealed to many New Jersey voters, leading to over 200,000 more mail-in ballots being submitted than in the previous year. New Jersey also made the decision to allow early in-person voting for the first time in the state’s history. At the moment there is no clear evidence as to whether or not this increased voter turnout, but it’s something to keep an eye out for those who are going to be voting in the next few years.

This past gubernatorial election had one of the lowest turnout rates in one hundred years, with only 39% of eligible voters casting their ballots. However, even with the overall number of voters continuing to diminish, the involvement of the newest group of eligible voters is flourishing. It appears that the main reason for this low turnout is actually because of older voters who no longer feel a need to cast their vote.

A shift has been seen in this upcoming generation that our predecessors have not experienced. There is a greater need to be involved. The current political climate has exponentially increased awareness among teenagers and the numbers are showing that they have been inspired to start participating in our democracy. Social justice issues are at the forefront of many adolescent’s minds, likely sparked by the summer of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests in response to the murder of George Floyd. Today’s youth are becoming aware of the impact their votes can have not only on policies, but on the overall social climate, and they are choosing to take action.

With social media being the lifeline of most teenagers it has become far easier to publicize voter registration drives and information regarding upcoming elections. One group,, chose to create a competition where teens were challenged to share the website with as many people as possible. The site focused on hosting registration drives at central locations, such as high schools, libraries, town halls, etc. where students could easily pre-register to vote. New Jersey also offers registration when receiving a driver’s license. The average 17 year old can head to the DMV, take their driver’s test, and simply check a box that allows their information to be sent over to register them to vote. 


The overall look of New Jersey voting is not the same as it once was. There is no longer an expectation to take time out of a busy day to go stand in line at a polling place and wait to enter the booth to simply press a button. College and high school students do not need to worry about rearranging an already hectic schedule to vote because now they can just fill out a form. As technology advances and affords more conveniences, it is obvious that people will begin to take advantage of such. One has to wonder if Gen Z is going to be the first generation to start switching to electronic voting. The upcoming June Primaries will be a clear insight into youth participation, determining whether or not this trend will follow through into the next election cycle.