New Jersey Redistricting Process
The following is a detailed overview of the process provided by Insight Consulting Services, a Trenton based lobbying and political consulting firm:
New Jersey State House
A New Jersey commission in April finalized a once-every-decade update to the State's Legislative map in a vote that capped two months of public testimony and seven straight days of closed-door negotiations. The bipartisan panel's decision was left to a non-partisan 11th member, Rutgers Professor Alan Rosenthal. He said that when he failed to get commissioners from both parties to work on one plan, he told each side to improve its own version, and the Democrats' final conception better met legal and constitutional requirements.
The new legislative districts, drawn in response to population shifts recorded in the census, will come into play in the June primaries and the November election, when all 80 Assembly seats and all 40 Senate seats are up for election. The boundaries will force some incumbents - including Sen. John Girgenti, D-Hawthorne, and Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Princeton, ----to change hometowns or face more competitive races.
The number of representatives in Trenton won't change, but voters may find themselves in new districts that lean Republican, Democratic or a bit of both. Jersey City and Newark, which each had been divided among three districts, will now fall in just two districts each, the result of a federal court case. In the suburbs, a typical example of change is in District 40, which prior to Sunday's vote had 12 municipalities from Bergen, Essex and Passaic counties. It now will have 15 municipalities from those three counties as well as from Morris County.
The map had won endorsement a day earlier from a group of Latinos and African-Americans, who in a letter to Democratic members Saturday called the plan "substantially consistent with the coalition's goal of maximizing the number of minority opportunity districts."
The party that dominates both legislative houses prevailed despite involvement from Governor Christie, a Republican who had no official role in negotiations but who made three highly publicized visits to GOP panel members at The Heldrich, the New Brunswick hotel where the commission met all last week. Assemblyman John Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, commission co-chairman, declared: "It is a map that is forward-looking, that is fair, that is constitutional." Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver, D-Essex, who is African-American, said the question of minorities' involvement has less to do with a map and more with party commitment. "It all boils down to candidate selection and recruitment."
The Governor's party was displeased with the Democratic map's population breakdowns, which they said favored the southwestern part of the state at the expense of the northeastern. Members said their map, which established two districts dominated by African-Americans and two by Latinos, offered minorities more chances at higher public office. Assemblyman Jay Webber, R-Morris Plains, co-chairman of the commission, said a Democratic starting point for the redistricting was wrong. "In a state where we have a Republican governor, a state in which in 2009 Republicans got more votes for the state Assembly than Democrats, a state in which in 2010 Republican congressional candidates got more votes than Democratic congressional candidates, I suggest that this state is not a blue state or a red state, but a purple state. It's a competitive state," Webber said.
Tea Party members
About two dozen demonstrated outside the State House, waving signs that suggested their own map was more fair. During the vote, one Tea Party member displayed a hastily written sign: "Get ready to be primaried," a reference to upcoming races for the Legislature. Webber said the Republicans considered suggestions from a number of groups.
Rosenthal declined to take any questions during the vote. Afterward, Webber reiterated that Republicans have concerns about how Rosenthal made his decision, and suggested that a lawsuit is an option. Moments later Wisniew¬ski, at a news conference, said: "We do not plan to litigate this map." Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute, said a lawsuit is a near certainty. "Somebody will sue and bring this map to court," he said in an interview. "The question is on what basis."
Congressional redistricting, which is separate from the legislative task, will begin June 15 with the appointment of commission members. They will have a January deadline to adjust districts to population figures - which have changed to such a degree that New Jersey will lose one seat in the House.
For detailed political analysis of the New Legislative Map click here.