NJ Legislative leadership puts off redistricting vote
TRENTON — A decision by leadership in the state legislature to put off a vote scheduled for Monday on a constitutional amendment that would change the way legislative districts are drawn was met with praise from both sides of the aisle.
The plan would have would led to the creation of districts that would last a decade, until the next federal census in 2030. Supporters said the proposal increases transparency by requiring public hearings and adding public members to the commission that draws the state's 40 legislative districts.
Opponents say the proposed question obscures a built-in advantage for Democrats by tying districts' makeup to political party performance in statewide elections over the previous decade.
Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, D-Middlesex, said in a statement that he recognized the desire for more debate and public input into a "such an important issue affecting our democracy."
"This will give us the time and opportunity to review the input we have received from the public, our legislative colleagues and others to determine if any of these ideas would improve the proposal," Senate President Steve Sweeney said in a separate statement.
Gov. Phil Murphy credited residents and organizations for making their opposition to the plan known.
"We have serious challenges facing our state, and now we can get to them together without distraction," the governor said in a statement.
Senate Minority Leader Tom Kean Jr., R-Union, said that the decision prevents voters from becoming disenfranchised.
“This shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Gerrymandering is wrong. We will remain vigilant, and fight back against any redistricting proposal that betrays democracy," Kean said in a statement.
New Jersey Republican State Committee chairman Doug Steinhardt said, "We knew that this issue was always bigger than partisan politics. We saw that when leaders from both sides of the political aisle and groups from around the state came together, like the NAACP and League of Women Voters, to oppose this measure. It's withdrawal is a win for New Jersey’s 9 million residents and the foundation on which our democracy is built."
Under the current system, a 10-member commission with appointments split between the state Democratic and Republican party chairmen create the maps. The state's chief justice selects a neutral tie-breaking member.
Under the proposal, in addition to the public meetings, power of appointment would be taken away from state party chairmen. Instead, there would be a 13-member commission, and the party chairmen would each appoint two members. At least one would be from the public at large.
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report