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New Jersey city council lowers school board voting age to allow 16 and 17-year-old students to participate

Newark City Council unanimously passed a historic ordinance allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in the city's upcoming school board election.

A New Jersey city will now be allowing 16 and 17-year-olds the chance to use their voice in school board elections. 

A city council vote was unanimously approved by Newark City Council on Wednesday allowing 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in upcoming school board elections.

Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka said that he supported the ordinance, saying that "democracy is stronger when more people participate."

"I’m very proud to see Newark take the lead on this issue," Baraka said in a press release. "Democracy is stronger when more people participate, and bringing younger people into the fold, who have so much at stake, is a great idea. Our elections will be energized, and our school boards will benefit."

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Newark is now the largest municipality in the U.S to expand voting rights to young people since 1971, when the national voting age was lowered to 18.

The expansion in voting rights will impact over 7,000 16 and 17-year-old teens in the state's largest city.

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"From the suppression of learning the truth about race and racism, to gun safety and more, our 16- and 17-year-olds have never been more directly affected by school board policies, yet they have no meaningful say in who makes them," Ryan Haygood, President & CEO of the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, said in a press release. 

"They soon will. This historic ordinance will empower more than 7,000 16- and 17-year-olds, 90% of whom are Black and Brown, to speak for themselves at the ballot box," Haygood said.

The move to allow the teens to vote in school board elections comes after Newark’s last school board election when only 3% of eligible participants turned out to vote.

"This ordinance is good for our young people, good for Newark and good for New Jersey," said Newark City Council President LaMonica McIver, a sponsor of the ordinance. "I’m grateful to Mayor Barakaand [the] council for joining me to champion this important ordinance and look forward to its passage."

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