Republicans cancel redistricting hearing without telling public

( – promoted by Jay Lassiter)

Last week, then-Republican Chair Jay Webber sent a public letter to Democratic Chair John Wisniewski to “get the process jumpstarted” on redistricting public hearings, stating that “we believe those hearings have been delayed long enough” and that they were “eager to hold multiple hearings to listen to New Jerseyans’ views on this once-a-decade event.  

They apparently weren’t all THAT eager though, based on my experience today. More details below the fold.

Webber in the letter asked the “Democratic Commissioners to join us on the following dates and in the following locations” – 1/12 at 6 pm in Newark; 1/13 at 6 pm in Jersey City; 1/18 at 6 pm in Glassboro; and 1/20 at 6 pm in Toms River. The hearings would go ahead whether or not the Democrats showed up.

So I planned to go to the first one – especially after seeing an article online on yesterday saying the hearings were still on. I figured I had better double check that the hearing was going on because of the snow.

At about 11 this morning, I called the Republican State Committee. The person who answered the phone didn’t know, and they had me leave a message for someone.

After not hearing back for a couple hours, I then called the Republican Senate office. They told me that I actually needed to call the Governor’s office to find out about redistricting. I called the Governor’s office, and talked to an aide, who gave me the number for the Governor’s scheduling office.

I then called the scheduling office. The person who answered the phone first told me that redistricting was a political matter and so I should not be calling the Governor’s office about it, and instead should call the Republican State Committee. When I told her that in fact I had already called there, she put me on hold for a minute, and then told me that in fact I needed to talk to the Senate Majority Office. When I asked somewhat incredulously whether that was right (given that the Republicans were hosting these meetings), she said yes – the person I needed to talk to about all of this was Steve Sweeney, because the Democrats were controlling the redistricting process.

So after all that I tried the Republican State Committee again. This time I got to someone who knew about the meeting, who told me he was 99% sure it was still on. He took my name and number, and promised to call if the meeting was canceled.

Finally having gotten an answer, I headed to the meeting in Newark and got there about 15 minutes early. I tried the door to Rutgers Law School where it was going to be held – and it was locked.

Someone else showed up for the hearing. We walked around the building to try to find other entrances. All locked.

Locked Door at Rutgers Newark Law School with Newspaper still in it

Two more people showed up. We had a nice discussion of redistricting issues – state legislative vs. congressional, the state Constitution, the federal Constitution.

At 6:10, we double checked all around the building. Still locked.

And then we all went home.

Lessons learned:

(1) The Republican redistricting operation doesn’t have their act together. Or actually care about public input.

(2) If you are a random member of the public calling up the Republican State Committee, don’t trust what they tell you.

(3) Redistricting is definitely an interesting topic that needs public discussion. Those of us who showed up had an interesting conversation about multimember districts and the Constitution that would have been a whole lot more interesting if we could have had it with the Republican Commissioners involved.

Meanwhile, no word about tomorrow’s hearing in Jersey City (which led to a discussion among those of us who showed up about whether to try to go or not).

Let’s hope the Democrats do better when their public meetings get underway.

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