Founded in the spring of 2017, we have a simple purpose: to create a nonpartisan Youth Council made up of elected 15- to 18-year-olds from around the state who will advise the Governor and legislature on policy issues relating to young people in the state. This Council will be established by the passage of legislation in both the New Jersey State Senate and the New Jersey General Assembly.
Youth have, for a long time, been excluded from politics, and issues that matter to them are rarely represented by legislatures composed of politicians far older than they who have little interest in advocating policy that benefits citizens who cannot vote.
Young people’s separation from the American political system is, by no means, entirely the fault of their elders. In fact, youth themselves often tend to be politically apathetic, and many youth rarely vote. According to CIRCLE, only 18 percent of eligible 18- to 29-year-olds voted in 2013 New Jersey Gubernatorial Elections.
We, Campaign for a New Jersey Gubernatorial Youth Council, hope and believe the establishment of such a Council will not only increase political engagement amongst youth but also help the New Jersey Governor and legislature make important decisions on educational, health, drug, environmental, and gun policy, all of which affects America’s youth just as much as—if not more than—the nation’s adults.
The Council will be created as an official State Advisory Council through legislation in the New Jersey State Senate and the New Jersey General Assembly. The legislation has been written and will soon be introduced. Unlike previous attempts at involving youth in New Jersey Government, the Council will consist solely of young people who, because of their age, cannot run for office at any level in New Jersey. Furthermore, the Council will be eligible for both public and private funding—the latter to ensure the continued success of the Council even during times of economic hardship. The Council will be strictly nonpartisan, and its politics will not necessarily align with those of the Governor or the legislature. While legislation will hopefully ultimately establish the Council, we work to gain endorsements from political organizations, including Vote16USA and Rock the Vote, and New Jersey Mayors to demonstrate to the legislature and Governor that support exists for the Council.
Currently, we as a Campaign are holding information forums around the state in an effort to raise awareness about the Council, which should meet for the first time in Fall 2018, and ensure that all New Jersey youth from a diverse range of backgrounds know about the possibility of serving their peers and state on the Council.
Assuming the Council will be permitted to meet at the New Jersey State House, the Council’s only costs will be transportation and food. To ensure all New Jersey high school students have the opportunity to run for a seat on the Council, all elected members will be have their travel costs reimbursed. On average, the distance from the central point of any New Jersey Congressional District to the New Jersey State House is roughly 42 miles. Equating the cost of one mile of travel to $0.38, there will be an average travel cost of roughly $16 for each Council member. Thus, the travel cost for the year will be roughly $1536, assuming 24 Council members and four meetings each year. Additionally, each Council member will be given $10 with which he or she may purchase lunch. Assuming 24 Council members and four meetings per year, the annual cost of food will be $960. Thus, the total annual cost of the Council, including both food and travel, will be $2496.
The New Jersey Gubernatorial Youth Council will consist of 24 elected representatives, two from each New Jersey Congressional District, who will serve one-year terms before reelection. Unlike gubernatorial youth councils in other states, we advocate elections to ensure fairness, nonpartisanship, and representation for all young members of the state. We at the Campaign are staunch supporters of democracy. To maximize youth participation, there will be a two-year term limit on all Council members. The Council will meet once every three months to discuss and write policy recommendations to the Governor and legislature. To ensure all Council representatives can attend each meeting, meetings will occur on Sundays from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM. Of course, circumstance may prevent a specific representative from coming to a meeting; however, in general, representatives are expected to be present and vocal at all sessions.
While the Council is not in session, representatives should engage with their respective Districts, promote and publicize the Council, and begin drafting policy recommendations relating to what they hear from youth in their areas.
Nonpartisan elections will occur during mid-May of each year. By April 30 every year, each prospective candidate will have to have created a platform addressing issues he or she would like to tackle as a representative and a Youtube video describing his or her person and policy proposals. These will both be uploaded to the Council’s website and shared on the Council’s Facebook page. To ensure maximum participation, elections in each District will occur through an online ballot. However, because the Campaign recognizes the potential, though unlikely, security issues with an online ballot and the possibility of voter fraud, the Campaign also suggests a voter registration system through which school districts must confirm the age of online voters. Furthermore, to ensure all New Jersey youth know about the Council and have the resources to run, we will work with the governor to reach out to every New Jersey high school, both public and private, and ask every school’s principal to announce the Council and its elections to all of its students. Though the Campaign suggests the use of an online ballot, we would be delighted to discuss the method further with the governor before he or she signs off on the Council. The two persons receiving the most votes in each District will become representatives for that District; the number of votes each candidate receives will be released to the candidates if they request to see the number but not to the general public under any circumstances.
After elections finish, there will occur a one day training program for all representatives in August during which they will meet the Governor, develop their public speaking and writing skills, and learn how to craft policy suggestions to the Governor and how to draft bills for submission to the legislature. In addition, at the training program, representatives will elect a Council Chair and Vice Chair to oversee the Council and ensure order and productivity. This training program will act as the first Council meeting of the year.