Screen shot 2011-02-10 at 5.16.59 PMJeff Gardner to panel: SORT THIS OUT!

Jeff is a candidate for the legislature. Depending on redistricting he may run in what is currently his home district, the 35th.  – promoted by Rosi

Last night, New Jersey’s Legislative Reapportionment Committee held a public hearing in Newark, one of just 5 opportunities scheduled for the public to weigh in on what could determine who controls state government for the next 10 years. More than a little interested in the process, I decided to attend.

The room was PACKED! For a while it was uncertain whether I would even get into the standing-room-only hearing room, let alone be allowed to testify. But, I did get in. And, I submitted my request to give testimony, like so many others had done. (Lesson learned: no advance reservation is needed – if you’ve got something to say, you should be able to say it.)

My testimony focused on the importance of expeditiously completing the final map to enable as many potential candidates as possible to mount vigorous competitive campaigns in the newly-drawn districts – a matter of utmost concern to so many of the evening’s speakers who were concerned about their communities being underrepresented in Trenton. Including, of course, me.

To that end, I made 2 simple requests: First, that the Committee allow the 11th member to be appointed, without delay, to ensure the final map will be completed as expeditiously as possible, and with that too-powerful 11th member having had the benefit of actually hearing from the public on the process. And, second, that the Committee stop wasting time arguing about whether the map should be based on voter turnout instead of census population numbers. There’s a reason this process happens only every ten years – it’s because that’s when the census happens. The map should be based on population. Period. Arguments to the contrary are a distraction that only serves to unnecessarily delay the process.

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We’ll see soon enough if the Committee takes my arguments, or those of the others who testifed last night, to heart. But, in the meantime, I would encourage anyone interested in who controls our state government for the next decade to attend a public hearing.

The next meeting is scheduled for this Sunday, February 13th at 1p at Hudson Community College in Jersey City. And, while I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t prefer that you come to Cherry Hill for a House Party instead, if you’re not coming to Cherry Hill, you ought to at least show up in Jersey City, and testify!

Comments (6)

  1. Rosi Efthim

    By the way, I thought I remembered that there were to be 6 public hearings in this process. There have been four, with the 5th, as Jeff mentions, on Sunday. But the commission’s website only lists those 5.

    Anybody know if another public hearing is going up on the schedule?  

  2. deciminyan

    There is absolutely no Constitutional basis for apportionment based on voter turnout. The Constitution is very clear that the apportionment is to be based on “enumeration”.  So one can debate whether prisoners, college students, etc., should be counted in their home district or temporary district, but apportionment based on voter turnout should be off the table.

  3. Bertin Lefkovic

    Obviously, population should be the primary determining factor of the redistricting process, but partisan performance should be a secondary factor as part of an effort to ensure that there are as many competitive districts as possible

    Demographics in NJ probably make the creation of 40 competitive districts impossible, but at the moment, there are probably less than 10 competitive districts.  I think that if the commissioners had some kind of performance-based requirements, we could probably get at least 20 competitive districts in the state.

    There should also be some restriction on districts crossing county lines so that no district can be stretched across more than two counties.

  4. Bertin Lefkovic

    …to change the primary election date to the Tuesday after Labor Day?

  5. Jeff Doshna

    If we simply followed the rules that created districts of roughly equal population, with roughly equal demographics, and with a shape that is contiguous and compact, the ‘competitiveness’ would work itself out.

    I live in the current 23rd district.  As much as I would love to see it, there is no fair scheme that’s going to make this part of Western NJ anything other than what it is — a pretty safe bet for Republicans.  That’s not saying that a good Democratic candidate can’t win, just that the population here hews a certain way.

    I’ve been playing with the Census data, and I hope to have some more concrete thoughts in a week or so, but it looks to me that there is a way to draw a map that is true to the law, true to progressive ideals of equal representation, and doesn’t create crazy jerrimandered districts.  I’ll post soon!


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