NEWARK – Community leaders and activists, many of which played integral roles in the recent 2018 midterm victories across the state, join together to demand legislators pull support from Senate and Assembly Concurrent Resolutions SCR43/ ACR60, which seeks to change the New Jersey Constitution in order to allow changes experts decry as perpetuating gerrymandering. Over 130 leaders from across the state joined together to express concern that the fast tracked proposal will do more to exacerbate gerrymandering, than it’s own stated goals of electoral “fairness”.
The signatories request that members of the legislature “reject Senate and Assembly proposals SCR43 and ACR60, which from their shared vantage points represent the definition of partisan gerrymandering and unfairness that we as a state and nation should be rejecting. Across the nation, states are taking actions to create increasingly independent commissions that remove partisan considerations and politics from their redistricting processes. They are doing so because they understand that independent commissions lead to more competitive districts, which are ultimately healthy for the functioning of our democracy, the group says. In what they say is an inexplicable move, New Jersey is poised to reverse course, and instead, increase the exact measures that experts agree lead to greater gerrymandering.”
The letter cites “fatal flaws” in the proposal, specifically citing amongst other issues:
● The mandate for legislative participation in the commission; reserving a minimum of 4 out of 13 seats to elected officials, and giving direct influence to legislators in the appointment of at least 8 commision members.
● The restrictions placed upon the independent, non-partisan, court appointed tie-breaker, relegating the individual’s role to no more than a checklist prefect.
● The establishment and precedence of a mathematical model, that while seemingly fair on paper, is not rigorous enough to prevent unjust manipulation of the formula by parties with vested interest.
The proposal, introduced during the holiday weekend, was approved out of committee after a much delayed and contentious meeting on Monday night. The community leaders and activists join the chorus of experts such as the League of Women Voters, the Brennan Center, the New Jersey Institute of Social Justice, and the NAACP, all of which have decried the proposal for creating a structure, codified within the constitution that would likely exacerbate partisan gerrymandering in the upcoming 2019 redistricting process.
“For years, we have shunned and sued Republicans for gerrymandering and stealing elections throughout the country. Now, after a blue wave swept the state, Democratic party bosses want to consolidate that power by controlling whose votes get to count where. New Jersey already has, what other states desire, an independent commission for drawing district lines. We don’t need to cheat to win. We win by working with people,” said Anna Wong, Indivisible NJ 5th District
“The proposed redistricting proposals are nothing short of an attempt to weaponize gerrymandering. Everyone wants to win elections but to build a chess board that systematically destroys all the principles of good government that we value – transparency, accountability, and fair representation — is not democracy. It is political theater. Our redistricting system certainly needs improvement, but injecting such blatant partisanship into the system and stripping away all forms of independence and fairness are not the solution” said Saily Avelenda, Executive Director of NJ 11th for Change
“The proposed constitution question uses the rhetoric of fairness however, experts and voters alike see this is an effort to facilitate gerrymandering by the legislative leadership. SCR43/ACR60 will only serve to provide legislators and party bosses greater control to manipulate electoral outcomes. This insanity must not be allowed to prevail. We overcame serious gerrymandering to flip the house by directly engaging with voters, if the legislature is truly interested in helping flip seats from red to blue they will follow our example set in November,” said Analilia Mejia, Director of New Jersey Working Families Alliance
“New Jersey’s proposed redistricting amendment ensures that legislative representatives will pick their voters rather than the other way around. That is the definition of gerrymandering. It is undemocratic and does not represent best practices. NJ voters deserve an independent, nonpartisan commission.” said Marcia Marley, director of Blue Wave, New Jersey
“Grassroots activism has exploded since the November 2016 elections because everyday Americans saw damaging actions aimed at the pillars of our democracy by Trump and the complicit GOP. That this partisan gerrymandering bill is even being voted on is exactly the reason why our progressive organization stands with many others against it. We will stand against harmful legislation regardless of political party. What matters is the negative impact this highly partisan and damaging bill will have on New Jerseyans for years to come, especially to communities of color,” said Uyen “Winn” Khuong, Executive Director, Action Together New Jersey
A one-party State will result in less progressive policies and worse governmental practices, particularly when many legislative districts don’t even have competitive primary elections. If we give politicians the power to choose their own voters, they’ll win without ever having being held accountable to their constituents. That’s bad for democracy and terrible for the people of this state,” said Sue Altman, South Jersey Women for Progressive Change.Activists Letter on Redisricting